In the wake of two contrasting pairs of playoff victories to the top two sides of the 2017 Super Rugby campaign, Alex McLeod runs you through all you need to know ahead of the Super Rugby final between the Lions and the Crusaders.
Ellis Park, Johannesburg, 2am kick off
With both teams finishing the regular season with a 14 win, one loss record, the Lions and Crusaders headed into the 2017 Super Rugby playoffs as the competition's top two seeds.
The Crusaders looked set come away from the regular season as top seeds as they prepared to face the Hurricanes in their round 17 clash at Westpac Stadium.
Until that fixture, the seven-time champions were unbeaten, and only needed to defeat the reigning titleholders to secure pole position ahead of the South Africans, who trailed by just two points on the standings.
However, the Wellington-based franchise sprung an upset and won 31-22 to hand the Crusaders with their first loss of the season.
The Lions proceeded to pounce on the Crusaders' downfall to cruise to a 27-10 victory over the Sharks in Durban just hours later, allowing them to leapfrog the Cantabrians to complete the regular season at the summit of the standings.
This led to two very different quarter-final clashes for the two sides. The Crusaders were up first, hosting southern rivals the Highlanders at AMI Stadium.
Because Christchurch was in a state of emergency due to severe flooding throughout much of the South Island, the match was played in atrociously wet conditions in front of a half-empty stadium.
Although many parts of the turf was under water, the home side - thanks to the All Black-laden forward pack - dominated in what was a dire contest, keeping the Highlanders scoreless in a 17-0 win to book themselves a home semi-final against the Chiefs.
The Lions, on the other hand, had to come from behind against the Sharks to qualify for the semi-finals on a much drier track at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The KwaZulu-Natal side led the hosts for the majority of the match, and headed into the final few minutes with an unlikely one point advantage over the regular season table-toppers.
That was until Springbok wing Ruan Combrink slotted a 58 metre penalty in the 77th minute to push the Lions to a 23-21 win, setting up a home semi-final against the Hurricanes.
With much of the rain having disappeared from Christchurch, a more expansive game was able to be played between the Crusaders and Chiefs than what was played at AMI Stadium a week earlier.
This suited the game plan of the visitors, as the likes of Damian McKenzie and James Lowe were given an opportunity to express themselves without being slowed down by a damp turf.
However, for all the attacking spark within the Chiefs side, they struggled to break an obstinate Crusaders defence, who made an incredible 185 tackles to the Chiefs' 66.
With only 33 per cent possession, the Crusaders made what they had with ball in hand count, scoring four tries to one to complete a satisfying all-round performance to solidify their position in the Super Rugby final with a 27-13 win.
Meanwhile, the Lions had to come from behind for a second week in a row after falling behind 22-3 to the Hurricanes inside the first half an hour in Johannesburg.
Stern halftime words from coach Johan Ackermann, jet lagged Hurricanes bodies playing at altitude and under the harsh Highveld sun, along with some dubious officiating from referee Jaco Peyper and his assistants all contributed to the Lions outfit storming to victory in the second half.
Tries to Jacques van Rooyen, Ross Cronje, Malcolm Marx, Harold Vorster, Elton Jantjies and Kwagga Smith handed the Lions a spectacular 44-29 win, giving them the right to host a Super Rugby final for the first time in their history.
What makes the Lions' back-to-back final appearances even more impressive is that just four years ago, they were relegated out of the competition due to their consistently poor performances, with their spot being filled by the disastrous Southern Kings.
Standing in their way is a Crusaders team looking to end an incredibly long title drought, one that dates back nearly a decade to 2008.
The competition's most successful franchise will be desperate to end their nine-year titleless run, and face the daunting task of taking down a team equally as desperate to win their first ever title at the ever-imposing cauldron of Ellis Park.
For the third week running, Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has named an unchanged side to the teams that defeated the Highlanders and Chiefs earlier in the playoffs.
11 All Blacks feature in their match day squad, nine of whom are forwards, with prop Wyatt Crockett and lock Luke Romano again confined to the reserves bench behind Joe Moody, Scott Barrett and captain Sam Whitelock.
Flanker Matt Todd and midfielder Ryan Crotty will assist Whitelock as dual vice-captains.
Likewise, Lions coach Johan Ackermann has made no changes to the side that defeated the Hurricanes in Johannesburg last weekend.
Reserve hooker Akker van der Merwe will earn his 50th Super Rugby cap should he make an appearance off the bench.
Crusaders: 1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Scott Barrett, 5. Sam Whitelock (c), 6. Jordan Taufua, 7. Matt Todd (vc), 8. Kieran Read, 9. Bryn Hall, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 11. Seta Tamanivalu, 12. Ryan Crotty (vc) , 13. Jack Goodhue, 14. Israel Dagg, 15. David Havili
Reserves: 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Michael Alaalatoa, 19. Luke Romano, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Mitchell Drummond, 22. Mitchell Hunt, 23. George Bridge
Lions: 1. Jacques van Rooyen, 2. Malcolm Marx, 3. Ruan Dreyer, 4. Andries Ferreira, 5. Franco Mostert, 6. Jaco Kriel (c), 7. Kwagga Smith, 8. Ruan Ackermann, 9. Ross Cronje, 10. Elton Jantjies, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 12. Harold Vorster, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 15. Andries Coetzee
Reserves: 16. Akker vd 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
As they have done for the duration of these playoffs, the Crusaders head into the final as favourites at the TAB, paying $1.70 to claim their eighth Super Rugby crown at Ellis Park.
In comparison, the Lions are considered slight underdogs, paying $2.15 for a Super Rugby title win on home soil.
Like last week, Seta Tamanivalu and Israel Dagg are the joint favourites to score the first try of the match, with the two wings paying at $9 each.
Wing Courtnall Skosan is the favourite from the Lions to dot down first, paying at $11.
At the other end of the spectrum, props Owen Franks, Jacques van Rooyen and Ruan Dreyer are paying a whopping $61 to be the first player to cross the tryline in the match.
How to follow:
Join us for live updates of the action from 2.00am onwards. Radio Sport will also be covering the game live.