Cape Town - Ireland captain Rory Best has backed Ulster team-mate Jacob Stockdale to step up in the absence of the departing Simon Zebo at Test level.
It was confirmed on Tuesday that Zebo will leave Munster at the end of the season for the Top 14, putting his international career in doubt.
And Best, who made his comeback from a hamstring injury against La Rochelle last weekend, believes utility back Stockdale has done enough to put himself in contention for a starting berth in Joe Schmidt's Ireland side.
21-year-old Stockdale has two caps for Ireland, having made a try-scoring debut against the USA in June and has been in impressive form of late for Ulster.
Schmidt will name his squad for the November internationals this week with Best set to retain his captaincy having declared himself fit.
Ireland host South Africa in the opening Aviva Stadium game on November 11 and clash with Fiji a week later before taking on Argentina on November 25.
"Joe will know whether he'll feature but you cannot deny the form Jacob has been in," Best told the Belfast Telegraph.
"The big thing for Jacob has been to follow one really good season with a summer tour then continue to do the hard work so that you keep improving.
"Ultimately that is the difference between a top international player and a guy who comes in a handful of times but will be in and out.
"The top players are always striving to be better, they're the ones you see out doing extras at the end.
"We have seen a lot of that with Jacob and the way he turned up at the start of pre-season, and the way he was during pre-season, it was no surprise to me the way he started the season in an Ulster shirt.
"I'm sure there will be intricacies in his game that Joe will not be happy with and that he'll want to improve on, but that's the next step for him as well."