Winning Tests more important than being No.1: All Blacks coach

Brisbane (Australia) (AFP) –


All Blacks coach Ian Foster insists winning Test matches is all that matters, downplaying their return to the top of the world rankings as "not on our minds at all".

New Zealand will be confirmed as number one when the new rankings are released this week after their 36-13 victory over Argentina in Brisbane on Saturday, dethroning South Africa for the first time since late 2018.

They received major assistance from the Wallabies, who stunned the Springboks 30-17, backing up from their 28-26 Rugby Championship win the week before.

"It's not on our mind at all," Foster said of the ranking.

"I'm not saying that to downplay it. We're about to play South Africa next week, we'll get excited about that.

"We're more interested in winning a Test match than where we sit (in the rankings).

"If we focus too much on the other thing, we'll get tripped up and won't be there for very long and that doesn't interest us either," he added.

The bonus-point victory over Los Pumas all but sealed the Rugby Championship for New Zealand, who face the Springboks in Townsville next week -- the 100th Test between the two sides -- ahead of a return leg on the Gold Coast.

With a 10-point deficit in the table, South Africa must win with a bonus point on Saturday to keep their slim title hopes alive.

"It'll be a torrid game, they always are," said Foster. "I saw about 50-odd minutes of that game (South Africa's loss to the Wallabies on Saturday) to know what's coming.

"It's probably the first time South Africa have played against a team that's played with a lot of tempo in the last two years. I think they'll learn a lot from that."

Importantly, Foster was delighted with how his largely inexperienced team overcame Argentina, having gone into the game with wholesale changes, resting key players and trying out new combinations.

While their execution was top-notch in the first-half, taking a 24-3 lead into the break, they lost some momentum after the interval as Argentina grew in confidence.

Foster said he was encouraged by the form shown by younger players like Samisoni Taukei'aho, Tupou Vaa'i, Hoskins Sotutu and Ethan Blackadder, and the experience had been good for them.

"We've got to be a lot more ruthless when we do create stuff, because we left a few points out there," he said.

"Overall, I think it was good for our newer players to feel that pressure and that tension, and I thought that fourth quarter will be gold for us because you realise you never have anyone beaten at Test level.

"If you don't finish up when you've got a chance, you're in for a bunfight, and we had our hands full in that last quarter against Argentina."