Cape Town - New Zealand rugby boss Steve Tew says British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is in contention to replace Steve Hansen as All Blacks coach.
Tew believes no matter what happens in the third Test between the sides, Gatland's reputation has been enhanced with his management of a rigorous Lions touring schedule.
This, despite Gatland being portrayed as a clown in the New Zealand Herald before the first Test. But it seems Gatland has had the last laugh as he appears to be a surprise front-runner for the position.
Hansen says he will step down after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
"I don't know why a question about Warren's inclusion even needs to be asked. Whatever happens on Saturday, this Lions tour has been a success," said Tew.
"I don't think losing on Saturday makes anyone a better or worse coach and I think Warren's record to now already makes him a candidate.
"Warren is an outstanding coach. He certainly wants to come back to New Zealand one day and he aspires to be the All Black coach. Clearly, he'll be considered."
Although the style of play Gatland gets his sides to play might not endear him to the locals, those who matter in the upper echelons of Kiwi rugby are admirers of the 53-year-old mentor.
"Put Warrenball, or whatever anyone calls it aside, Gats has been a bloody successful coach because he's able to prepare teams to play different opposition, week in, week out, and win," Tew said.
"We kicked the ball more in the first two Tests than the Lions did - and nobody was calling it Hansenball, were they?
"I wouldn't box any coach into a category. The process we go through involves guys going in front of the board and setting out their vision for the All Blacks, and the game, and how they're going to go about it. I'm sure Warren has won the public over, but maybe I'm cynical because I think what we hear is what the media want the public to think.
"There are knowledgeable fans who watch a lot of rugby and know exactly what is going on, and there will be a group that are just there to be entertained and they'll take their cue from what they read on the train home. I thought the clown stuff with Warren was really unnecessary, they just got carried away. I've got a pretty thick skin but when it gets personal against an individual it's wrong.
"As far as the Lions go, this group have done a very good job of connecting themselves on this tour. There have been no issues off the paddock, nothing for us to deal with. They're playing three games in seven days sometimes and it's been bloody hard work. It's a credit to Warren, Sam Warburton as captain and John Spencer, the tour manager.'