Springbok hero Joel Stransky fears the Lions' charmed run through this year's Super Rugby competition will come back to bite them in Sunday's semifinal against the Hurricanes.

By finishing top of the table through the regular season, the Johannesburg-based side clinched home advantage through the playoffs, but struggled to overcome South African rivals the Sharks at the first knockout stage last weekend, with Ruan Combrinck kicking a long-range in the dying moments to progress.

Amazingly, they earned their lofty position without facing any New Zealand franchises and Stransky, who scored all South Africa's points - including the winning drop goal in extra time - against the All Blacks in the 1995 World Cup final, thinks the Lions are ripe for the picking.

"I'm really concerned that they haven't played a New Zealand team yet," he told Radio Sport Breakfast.

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"I thought the Sharks were very clever in the way they applied pressure and I think the Hurricanes would certainly have learnt from that. They would have studied that inside out and the Hurricanes coaching team are very, very smart."

While the New Zealand teams have had to qualify for post-season play through a series of tough local derbies, the Lions have feasted on inferior opponents, finishing with 14 wins and just one loss, to edge the Crusaders for overall honours.

"The structure of the tournament is problematic," said Stransky. "We just don't know how good the Lions are, because they haven't played against a New Zealand team yet.

"There's no doubt whatever conference the five New Zealand teams play in, it is just a really hard conference. You see how the Aussie teams have looked terrible and battled to win against any of the New Zealand franchises, and you see how South African teams have picked up easy points in their pools.

"The flaw is that the Lions have not been able to test themselves against the other best teams in the competition."

Stranksy suggested the champion Hurricanes, who survived a stern road quarter-final against the Brumbies last Friday, were one of the competition's form sides, having inflicted the Crusaders' only loss two weeks ago.

"They have a lot of the All Blacks that played against the British & Irish Lions - they were outstanding in that series and will come into these games carrying enormous confidence.

"If you're not playing against the best teams in the world, like the Chiefs, the Hurricanes, the Crusaders or the Highlanders, you are not testing yourself and you're not stepping up when it absolutely matters.

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"When you do have to play against those teams in a one-off knockout game, it's going to be very tough to catch up with the pace of the game, the style of play and the different set of pressures that comes your way."

Stransky also highlighted the absence of Springbok captain and No 8 Warren Whiteley from the Lions with a pelvic injury.

"From what I understand, he's not going to be back this weekend and, if not this weekend, I doubt they would shove him into a final, if they got that far," he told RSB.

"That's a big loss for that Lions team, because I think the players themselves are great players - Kwagga Smith and Jack Kriel have combined well, and Ruan Ackermann is an up-and-coming great loose forward - but this team has missed some street smarts and wisdom and patience that Warren Whiteley brings as a leader."

To their credit, though, the Lions present a very different challenge to the team that seemed happy just to face this same Hurricanes outfit in last year's Super Rugby final in Wellington.

"I think, last year, they played out of their socks and surprised everyone, including themselves," said Stransky. "When they got to the final, there was certainly an element of they had done unbelievably well to just be there.

"If you look at them now, they are a team that have grown in confidence and self-belief, and they have a squad that is much more experienced ... a squad that is a little deeper.

"Last year, they did really well to get to the final, but this year, there's a huge self-belief that they should be winning finals ... this week is no different."