It has become increasingly clear that the devastating New Zealand Super Rugby onslaught, which halted any hopes the Sharks and Stormers might have entertained of progressing further than the quarterfinals, only served to underline the creeping limitations of South African rugby.
Yet despite the on-field carnage, the Lions emerged as genuine contenders at Ellis Park with a well-merited 42-25 win over seven-time Super Rugby champions the Crusaders, a side that had handed out a humiliating 43-37 defeat to the Johannesburg franchise at the same downtown stadium in April.
The pundits have raved about the mix of forward physicality and adventurous opportunism that have marked the way the Lions have approached the campaign – and rightly so.
But is must also be noted that it is a side full of players who have played for one another, rather than the transitory spotlight of personal glory, and have looked like they have enjoyed this immensely along the way.
There are patently few of the divisions that still mark our fragile sporting truce among this group of young men, leading the game in an exciting new direction. Ahead lies a semifinal against the Highlanders, last season’s champions, again at Ellis Park. The nation must now unite behind the Lions.