Lloyd Burnard - Johannesburg
Johannesburg - If anyone had said five years ago that, in 2017, the Lions would be playing their second Super Rugby final in as many years, they would probably have been laughed at.
To suggest that they would be favourites in a final against the most successful team in Super Rugby history would have been absurd.
But, that appears to be the case ahead of Saturday's Ellis Park final against the Crusaders.
As of Saturday morning, there was no separating the teams with local bookmakers Sportingbet having both sides at 9/10 to lift the title.
But given the fact that the Lions will be playing in front of a home crowd of 62 000 and that no New Zealand side has ever won a Super Rugby play-off match on the Highveld, the hosts are probably slight favourites.
That is at least the view of Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock, who acknowledged on Friday that going into a final as underdogs was not something the Crusaders were used to.
"It’s a little bit strange this year, but it’s something that we’re aware of," Whitelock said.
"That excites us. We’re just happy to be here in the final."
Last year, the Crusaders were beaten 42-25 at Ellis Park in the quarter-finals of the competition, but Whitelock thinks this year's side is a lot better prepared.
"It's a different side, but there are a few of us who played in that game," he said.
"This time we got here a lot earlier in the week which has helped with a number of things. The boys are nice and relaxed."
Whitelock also doesn't think that the home crowd factor will have much of an impact on proceedings.
"The beautiful thing about rugby is the the field is roughly the same side, no matter where you are in the world," he said.
"We've just got to worry about what's happening on there rather than what's happening around it."
If the Lions win, it will be their first ever Super Rugby title and first for a South Africa since the Bulls won in 2010.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Substitutes: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza
15 David Havili, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge