There has been a constant debate of late amongst rugby followers across the globe with regards to world rugby rankings, more especially the healthy lead of South Africa at the top, which seems to be increasing by the week while the Springboks have not played a second of rugby since winning the Webb Ellis trophy in Japan in 2019.
The world rugby rankings determine which national side is considered the world’s best. New Zealand often dominate the standings, while Wales have, at times, overtaken Ireland and England in the last year as the best performers from the northern hemisphere but have since plummeted to ninth with England the highest ranked team from up north in second position.
The All Blacks have slipped to third in the latest rankings following their humiliating and record setting defeat to Argentina in the Tri-Nations. It was the All Blacks’ first loss to the Pumas in what was their 30th meeting. Even more galling for the All Blacks and their supporters, Argentina had not played a test in 402 days since last year’s Rugby World Cup. It is also the first time since 2011 that the All Blacks have lost back to back matches after suffering a defeat to Australia a week before.
Despite not having played a test since the 2019 Rugby World Cup and opting not to play in the Rugby Championship, the Springboks now enjoy a whopping 5.78-point lead atop the standings.
Director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, said that his players would need more game time to be ready for the rigours of arguably the toughest international rugby competition.
“We worked out that the players needed a minimum of 400 minutes of game time before they could be ready for a test match,” said Erasmus.
It was a move that was welcomed by the majority of South African pundits, past players and fans alike at the time, although the Pumas’ win over the weekend has thrown doubt on the credibility of the claim. The Springboks’ brain trust, however, is confident that the right call was made, taking Covid-19 travel regulations and the British and Irish Lions Tour next year into consideration.
When it comes to world rankings, it looks like the Springboks will be sitting pretty, whether they play or not. Currently ranked No 1 with 94.2 points, the Boks are nearly six points clear of England on 88.42. The Boks will retain the No1 ranking despite not playing a game in the 2020 calendar year.
According to World Rugby’s website, a side will maintain its current position whether active or not. The biggest question is what happens if a country does not play for a number of years? Whether World Rugby deems the Springboks dormant or not may not even come into play, as long as the Covid-19 challenge still exists.