The Warren Whiteley-captained Lions will get one last shot at Super Rugby glory when they face the 1998 Crusaders in Game 11 of the Greatest Super Rugby Team tournament.
The 2017 Lions finished the season on top of the South African conference and the overall table after winning 14 of their 15 fixtures and ending with a positive points difference of 322.
Progressing through the playoffs, they dismissed both the Sharks (23-21) and the Hurricanes (44-29) to set up a finale against the Crusaders at Ellis Park, the first time a South African team had hosted the final since 2010.
PICK THE WINNER BELOW!
In a dramatic match, the Crusaders got off to a fast start with two tries in the opening 10 minutes, and the Lions’ attempts to work their way back into the game were hampered when Kwagga Smith was shown a red card for taking out a player in the air.
Despite playing with 14 men for most of the match, the Lions showed great character, but second-half tries from Malcolm Marx and Corne Fourie weren’t enough to reel in the Crusaders.
Captained by Whiteley, the 2017 Lions were one of South Africa’s best domestic teams of the past decade. A forward pack boasting the likes of Marx, Smith, Jacques van Rooyen, Ruan Ackermann, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert and Marvin Orie was ably complemented by a backline run by Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies, with Rohan Janse van Rensburg providing the muscle and Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Combrinck and Andries Coetzee the finishing and silky touches.
Wayne Smith’s 1998 Crusaders finished second overall but claimed the title after edging the Sharks 36-32 to advance to the final against the Blues, who they beat 20-13 at Eden Park.
It was the first time the Crusaders laid hands on the trophy and completed a remarkable turnaround for the club after they had finished last in the inaugural tournament in 1996.
All Blacks flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens was the star of the season, finishing as the top points-scorer with 206 to his name.
2017 Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Harold Voster, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Coach: Johan Ackermann
1998 Crusaders – 15 Daryl Gibson, 14 James Kerr, 13 Tabai Matson, 12 Mark Mayerhofler, 11 Norman Berryman, 10 Andrew Mehrtens, 9 Aaron Flynn, 8 Steve Surridge, 7 Scott Robertson, 6 Todd Blackadder (c), 5 Norm Maxwell, 4 Reuben Thorne, 3 Stu Loe, 2 Mark Hammett, 1 Kevin Nepia.
Coach: Wayne Smith