irb.com 07.Sep.2012Getty Images
The Wallabies went into June with a 3.65 rating point cushion over South Africa, but defeats by Scotland and world champions New Zealand (twice) mean that any margin of victory over their hosts will see the Springboks return to second spot.
South Africa were last ranked as the number two side in the world before their Rugby World Cup 2011 quarter final loss at the hands of Australia, but a win by more than 15 points could give them a three point cushion over the Wallabies.
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This margin of defeat would also see Australia sit just under nine tenths above France in fifth, a scenario coach Robbie Deans will be keen to avoid given the Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool Allocation Draw coming up in December.
If Australia, or South Africa for that matter as the margin would be the same if they lose heavily in Perth, were to slip out of the top four come 3 December then they would not be in the top band of seeds and would face a trickier pool at England 2015.
Australia would still retain second place if the sides draw, although the margin between the two rivals would shrink to just over four tenths at the halfway stage of the inaugural Rugby Championship.
Only in the event of an Australia-South Africa draw will New Zealand’s cushion at the top increase. This is because even an emphatic win over Argentina in Wellington will have no impact on the All Blacks’ rating, a consequence of being the home side and ranked seven places and 13.09 points above the Pumas.
New Zealand’s cushion is currently 6.38 rating points, but even in victory this will shrink by around nine tenths with an emphatic victory for either South Africa. The All Blacks can’t lose top spot, even if they suffer a first ever loss to Argentina, but their cushion would shrink sufficiently.
It could reduce to as little as 2.51 rating points with a loss by more than 15 points, a result which would see Argentina climb above both Ireland and Wales into sixth place. A smaller winning margin would still be enough to lift the Pumas into seventh spot at Ireland’s expense.