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All Blacks fearing autumn fall after Rassie Erasmus’s surprise lesson | Paul Rees

New Zealand’s stuttering Rugby Championship form means they could be toppled from No 1 spot by Ireland next month, while South Africa and Argentina have reasons to look up

New Zealand have looked down on the rest from the top of the world rankings for more than 10 years, but their position appears a little less secure after a Rugby Championship campaign during which they lost at home against a resurgent South Africa and avoided being doubled on Saturday only by fashioning two late tries.

The All Blacks were discomfited by a hustling South Africa side that only two years ago was branded a fiasco by its then head coach Allister Coetzee. He was sacked in February despite an improvement in 2017 and replaced by Rassie Erasmus. The new coach’s first act was to consider more players who were based outside the country and it was the departure through injury of two of them on Saturday, the Wasps full-back Willie le Roux and the Sale scrum-half Faf de Klerk, that helped turn the momentum of the match, along with the unforced substitution of the hooker Malcolm Marx eight minutes from time.

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