The Lions raced back into play-off contention with and emphatic 30-7 victory over the star-studded Hurricanes side in a Super 14 Round Eight match at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Lions outscored the lethargic Hurricanes, who brought back all six their reconditioned All Blacks for the match, by two tries to one to move into sixth place on the standings.
It was a brilliant performance by a Lions team who disappointed in losing their last two matches against New Zealand opposition.
Lions' Coach Eugene Eloff's beaming face told of his pride in his pride of Lions, and he had every reason to be proud. They played as a team with great courage and purpose and were full value for their win over a star-studded Hurricanes side that did not play as a team and spent most of the Highveld evening with their heads hanging down in their own territory.
Wait till the reconditioned All Blacks come back, they said. They are only mortals, Eloff said - and Eloff was right. There was no quick fix for the Hurricanes on the return of Piri Weepu, Jerry Collins, Jason Eaton, Andrew Hore, Chris Masoe and Rodney So'oialo. In addition they had great centres in Conrad Smith and Tana Umaga. It did nothing for the team.
Against them was a team - mainly no-name brand players but a team and on the way to becoming household names. The Lions tacked everything, making 133 tackles to 64 in the match. They contested every breakdown and won the turn-overs, Collins, Masoe and So'oialo notwithstanding. They passed and ran with greater fluidity. They chased every kick as if desperate men. They did ordinary things extraordinarily well. They were a team.
The reconditioned All Blacks were not fine-tuned to playing and certainly not to playing in a team. The best of the Hurricanes was probably Cory Jane at fullback, not reconditioned but used to catching, running, tackling, kicking - that sort of rugby thing.
One could not blame travel, for the Lions had travelled to Johannesburg from the North Island of New Zealand while the Hurricanes had come the short distance from Durban. There was nothing jet-lagged about the Lions for their energy seemed boundless, the concentration absolute for the full 80 minutes.
It was a lively match that started with a sober moment as people stood in silence to the memory of Bob Woolmer who was murdered in Jamaica, surely sport's greatest act of madness.
The Lions started well, spreading the ball wide, playing with enthusiasm while the Hurricanes waited for something to click. The Lions ran from behind their own line, and they built up a 6-0 lead when first Eaton was penalised for being off-side and then Umaga was penalised for misbehaving at a tackle.
Umaga had a strange match. For most of it he seemed uninterested and indifferent and then at the end, when all was lost, he suddenly burst into angry life.
Collins had a great break from a line-out and a try seemed imminent but the Lions mowed him down. The Hurricanes had a five-metre line-out but the lines' defence was great and after that they had a chance to give the Hurricanes a lesson in mauling. They did it twice and on each occasion the Hurricanes were penalised. On the second occasion Eaton was the collapser and was sent to the sin bin. Straightaway the Lions kicked out and drove the maul for a try by lively hooker Ethienne Reynecke. 11-0 after 26 minutes.
When André Pretorius kicked an up-and-under into the night sky, Jaque Fourie caught it and Jaco Pretorius was running at the line.
The Hurricanes were off-side and André Pretorius made it 14-0 and then, when Eaton was back on the field, 17-0 with two minutes to the break.
The referee spoke to Umaga who was showing annoyance with him and then the Hurricanes burst into the kick-off and attacked in their best passage of play,. From a five-metre scrum they attacked over and over and then drove Weepu in for a try, which made the score 17-7 at the break.
The Hurricanes were destined not to score again in the match.
André Pretorius opened the scoring in the second half with a soaring drop and then kicked a penalty when Weepu was penalised for holding on.
The Hurricanes had a likely incursion when Umaga burst through but instead Fourie came running away with the ball and the Hurricanes were knocked back into their own territory.
After Masoe had been penalised, the Lions made a line-out on their left. They came right and André Pretorius slipped a grubber into the Hurricanes' in-goal where racing Fourie was first to dive on the ball for the try, which Pretorius converted.
There were 11 minutes left and the Hurricanes attacked down their right with Smith and Umaga prominent but young Brian Mujati won a turn-over, injuring himself in the process but enabling his side to clear.
Man of the Match: It's a terrible job. After the match captain André Pretorius said any one of his team could have been given the man of the Match award as there was a lot of virtue in every one of them but André Pretorius was the leader who controlled the match. He is our Man of the Match.
For the Lions:
Tries: Reynecke, Fourie
Pens: Pretorius 5
For the Hurricanes:
Yellow card: Jason Eaton (Hurricanes, 26 - repeated infringements, dropping maul)
Lions: 15 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jaco Pretorius, 11 Jannie Boshoff, 10 Andre Pretorius, 9 Enrico Januarie, 8 Jacques Cronjé, 7 Ernst Joubert, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Anton van Zyl, 4 Cobus Grobler, 3 Bertus Smit, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Brian Mujati, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Strydom, 22 Wylie Human
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Lome Fa'atau, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Blair Stewart, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So'oialo (c), 7 Chris Masoe, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Paul Tito, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Bradley Mika, 19 Luke Andrews, 20 Serge Lilo, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Tamati Ellison
Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia)
Touch judges: Nathan Pearce (Australia), Gareth Lloyd-Jones (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Assessor: Arrie Schoonwinkel (South Africa), Tony Dunlop (New Zealand)