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South Africa vs Ireland - the battle to be ranked number one

By Jon Newcombe
Paris , France - 23 September 2023; Bundee Aki of Ireland makes a break during the 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Ireland at Stade de France in Paris, France. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ireland will replace South Africa as the number one ranked team in the world if they pull off a sensational win against the Springboks in Pretoria this Saturday.


Andy Farrell’s side go into the match at Loftus Versfeld just under four points worse off than their hosts in second place, but that would flip on its head if they achieve a big enough margin of victory.

A win by 16 points or more would result in a swing of just over five rating points with Ireland sitting top on 93.22 points, a position they last held in the middle of last October, with the Springboks placed second on 92.01.

Their only victory to date over the Springboks on South African soil was at Newlands in June 2016 when Paddy Jackson’s kicking and tries from Jared Payne and Conor Murray helped them to a historic 26-20 win, despite CJ Stander’s red card.


Ireland went into the last Rugby World Cup as the world’s number one team having held that position for 14 months. But their quarter-final exit at the hands of New Zealand coupled with South Africa’s progression to the last four enabled the Springboks to replace them, and they have remained proudly on top ever since.

Ireland won last year’s seismic Rugby World Cup encounter 13-8 on neutral soil in Paris and have won the last three meetings overall, but they were well beaten on their only previous visit to Pretoria in 1998, losing 33-0, when current Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus was among the try scorers.

In the overall head-to-head record, South Africa have won twice as many games as Ireland (18-9) with one draw.


In this episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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Flankly 11 days ago

Umm. And is there a possibility of Ireland losing? Because if so then it looks to me like they would lose their second place to NZ. And were they to lose by over 15 points they would be pretty close we to dropping to fourth, behind France.

It seems to me the latter outcome is a real possibility.

Haami 11 days ago

Cringe, here we go again with world rankings 🤔, its a great badge of honor of course, but tell me again how that worked out for NZ from 2003 when the rankings system was first introduced?, In and out of the top spot for 8 years before winning a world cup in 2011. Ireland are just the latest side to feel the rankings curse at last years world cup. I don’t think the ranking system means much other than a bit of gloating around the office water cooler, if you look at the ladder now, any of the top 5 sides can beat each other on their day. I think the next 4 year world cup cycle will see a number of test sides claim the top spot, so close are they all in quality.

Barry 12 days ago

‘The Lance Armstrong invitational 15’ v ‘Ireland’

Can’t wait!!!!

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