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YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — New Zealand straightened the world champion crown on its head and removed any doubt about its status as Rugby World Cup favorite as it overcame South Africa 23-13 on Saturday in the tournament’s most anticipated pool game.
A resurgent South Africa drew with the All Blacks on their home turf in July and stripped them of the Rugby Championship to make many question whether the New Zealanders had been finally brought back to the field. They also lost the No. 1 ranking they’d held for a decade, but that’s coming back to them after this win that showed off their ruthlessness and depth of skills.
After a cagey start, the All Blacks unlocked the scoreboard by exploiting Springboks errors for 17 points in six minutes to lead 17-3 at halftime. The All Blacks let South Africa back in with a soft try, and the Springboks closed within four points with a quarter to go.
But the All Blacks r
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