All Blacks: Players determined to protect home record

By Daniel Gilhooly

The All Blacks have finally admitted they are driven by their astonishing home ground rugby winning streak.

Their world record run of success has stretched out to 29 tests and will come under extreme pressure from world champions South Africa in Tri-Nations tests at Wellington on Saturday and in Dunedin a week later.

In recent seasons New Zealand players and management have played down the record as irrelevant but centre Conrad Smith broke ranks when asked if he was keen to maintain their 10-year run of success at home to the Springboks.

"We take a lot of pride, not just against the Boks but whoever we're playing at home," Smith said.

"We've had a pretty good record of late and you never like to lose, particularly when you're at home and you feel the support that we have.

"It's something we take pride in and we're pretty keen not to end it here."

Another statistical landmark up for grabs at Westpac Stadium is the International Rugby Board (IRB) world No 1 ranking.

Victory would see the All Blacks reclaim the top spot they ceded when South Africa stormed to victory at last year's World Cup.

The Springboks were well down the ranking list going into that tournament but the multiple ranking points on offer proved decisive.

It ended a 3-1/2 year reign for the All Blacks atop the rankings.

That tenure began when they twice toppled then-world champions England in 2004 and New Zealand supporters will hope for history to repeat this weekend.

RUGBY WORLD RANKINGS

Oct 13 2003 to June 6 2004: England (35 weeks)

June 6 2004 to Oct 22 2007: New Zealand (175 weeks)

Oct 22 2007 to present: South Africa (26 weeks)

Current leading world rankings:
South Africa 90.81pts 1, New Zealand 89.79 2, Australia 84.56 3, Argentina 83.42 4, England 83.16 5, Wales 80.12 6, France 79.24 7, Ireland 77.18 8, Scotland 76.92 9, Fiji 76.77 10

- NZPA

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