Warren Gatland has left the door ajar for extra time to be added should a third deciding test be required to separate the British and Irish Lions and Springboks in 2021.

Gatland was today confirmed to lead the Lions on his third successive tour, becoming only the second coach after Sir Ian McGeechan to do so.

Lions managing director Ben Calveley said Gatland was the only man they wanted to again take the reins.

The 55-year-old New Zealander will work exclusively with the Lions from August, 2020, through to July, 2021, and the end of a reduced eight match, five week, tour of South Africa.

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Gatland, who finishes his extended 12-year tenure with Wales after the World Cup, presided over two previous unbeaten Lions series in Australia and New Zealand.

Two years ago the last series, of course, finished with the dramatic and controversial 15-all draw in the third "deciding" test in Auckland.

New Zealand supporters were left dumbfounded after French referee Romain Poite's late penalty backflip prevented the All Blacks from attempting a kick to potentially win the series at the death.

Controversy aside, the overriding sense for most was the series deserved a clear winner.

An eerie feeling descended over Eden Park post match – no one sure how to react as honours were shared.

Undoubtedly Gatland and the Lions were more pleased with the outcome but he has at least acknowledged demand could be there for extra time if the series in South Africa is square heading into the final test.

"I don't think at that moment that's being discussed. It's a potential, and I don't see that as a bad thing. The only way you could have the third test as a decider is if it was one all," Gatland said.

"Then potentially you could go into extra time. Looking back on that we came away having toured New Zealand and getting a drawn series and we can take a lot of pride from what we achieved.

"After that third test I think we had one of the most iconic photographs of all time when you see those players of both the All Blacks and Lions intermingled with Sam Warburton and Kieran Read holding the trophy aloft.

"That's definitely going to be one of the iconic photos that will go down in history as part of Lions heritage."

In accepting the position of head coach for a third time, Gatland has performed quite the backflip himself having stated he hated the New Zealand tour and was done with the Lions.

After touring South Africa under McGeechan as forwards coach in 2009 – a series the Lions lost 2-1 following defeats in the first two tests – Gatland now wants to reverse that result.

Should he achieve that feat, Gatland will be the first Lions coach to claim three unbeaten tours over the southern nations.

"I love the Lions as a concept. There were parts of the New Zealand tour that were incredibly challenging. It's probably the hardest thing you'll ever do as a coach in terms of planning and preparation and the scrutiny of the press is always something that's at the forefront of a Lions tour.

"When I reflected back on New Zealand the hospitality we had there; the atmosphere in the games was incredible. The opportunity to go to South Africa, there is some unfinished business having been involved as head coach in the previous two tours. I spoke to my family and I couldn't turn my back on this challenge."

Given the compressed nature of the South African tour – featuring two less games than in New Zealand – Gatland is expected to largely opt for continuity with his assistant coaches, though Andy Farrell's presence as defence coach may be doubtful due to his imminent promotion to lead Ireland after the World Cup.

With just two players included for the 2017 tour, Scotland may be more inclined to allow Gregor Townsend to join the Lions on a short-term basis this time around, too.

Gatland also confirmed this would be his final Lions tour.

"Yeah I think so, I would have done the rounds. The challenge for me as a head coach is to go undefeated in a test series. If I was able to achieve that, and the squad were able to achieve that, it would be something pretty special. I have been extremely privileged to be involved and this will be my fourth tour. I am so thankful to be given the opportunity."