South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus has backed New Zealand to end the year as the world’s top-ranked Test team despite pressure from Ireland.
Ireland could yet knock New Zealand off their world number-one perch should they beat the All Blacks in Dublin on November 17.
But former Munster coach Erasmus believes Steve Hansen’s All Blacks will hang on to the number-one status they have now hogged for almost nine years.
“I think even if they lose one or two games, I think the All Blacks are the number-one team in the world,” said Erasmus. “And I think they will go into next year the number one team in the world.”
New Zealand overhauled South Africa to return to the top of World Rugby’s Test rankings back on November 16, 2009 - and have stayed there ever since.
The All Blacks’ global dominance extends to lifting the last two World Cup titles, and head coach Hansen’s men remain the favourites to add a third straight triumph in Japan next year.
Ireland have cemented second spot under the exacting stewardship of taskmaster Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt.
Captain Rory Best and company will be itching to defeat the All Blacks in Dublin on November 17 in the northern hemisphere’s autumn Test schedule’s blue-chip fixture.
While Erasmus was not about to predict specific results, the former Springboks flanker still believes an overall feel for the game reveals more than the mere ranking numbers.
Erasmus’ men - currently ranked fifth in the world - will face the world’s current fourth-best Test side England at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Springboks boss believes that, in most cases, there is precious little separating the top teams.
“I think that with the world rankings it’s sometimes tough to judge who is number three, four or five,” said Erasmus.
“England are higher ranked than us for example, but we’re talking about it being a close Test match, so I don’t listen too much to those rankings. It will be good if some teams can challenge the All Blacks more, but they are number one.”