One kick, one minute, two points.

That was the margin between the Hurricanes taking the short flight back home to face a very winnable semifinal against the Sharks and spending 14 hours cooped up in the big bird. It must have been agonising viewing in the early hours of Sunday morning in their Sydney hotel room.

But they must swiftly get their heads around it, as much as they will focus on recovery for their bodies. Lying in wait are the Lions in Johannesburg. It will be a 2.30pm Saturday kickoff, meaning the sun will be on their backs and they will seek to play freely, more so than they showed, or were allowed to show, in the Canberra chill on Friday night.

It may have been the greatest female serve and volley exponent of all time, Martina Navratilova, who once said: "It doesn't matter how well you play when you are playing well, but how well you play when you're not playing well."


She may have had the All Blacks in mind, given they invariably pull themselves out of hairy positions, but the mantra could equally be applied to the Hurricanes, who rode their luck.

They beat the Australian conference winners 35-16. They would have taken the 19-point margin, but the flat performance in the first 50 minutes left a lot to be desired, and made coach Chris Boyd grumpy. It was not entirely coincidental that the entry of Dane Coles around that time saw them change up a gear or two and operate with far more accuracy and tactical nous.

And while the likes of Jordie Barrett, who scored 20 points on Friday, TJ Perenara and Ardie Savea are maintaining high standards, and Wes Goosen was very good for his double against the Brumbies, the revelation in the last fortnight has been Sam Lousi.

Marginalised at the start of the season as Michael Fatialofa churned out weekly quality, the big former Waratahs lock has shown his ability to up the ante when the going gets tight. He has carried well, won his ball and provided the grunt in the middle of the Hurricanes' pack. Just what the doctor ordered.

Coach Chris Boyd knows South African conditions well, and he will be urging his men to start like they mean to finish. In the last four outings, they have been slow to fire.

The Lions, off colour for much of their quarter-final against the Sharks, will need little to spark up. They are desperate to hold the Super Rugby final - it is seven years since the last decider in the Republic - after placing top of the log, but have sailed under the Kiwi radar as they yet to play a side from these shores.

The Hurricanes will be equally desperate to make the trip home for the final, most probably in Christchurch.

For that to happen, step forward and up, Beauden Barrett. He has not replicated his April/May form of late, and now he must assert himself over Elton Jantjies, run at the right times and excite his crosskicks. Do that, and the rest of the Hurricanes' game will fall into place.