The Crusaders' worst-case finals scenario - a match against the Lions in Johannesburg - has played out, and while the New Zealand side will travel with confidence due to their recent form, the Hurricanes' meltdown at Ellis Park should serve as a warning.
This Lions team can play a bit. Due to the quirks of the draw this year, they didn't play a New Zealand team during the round-robin but they showed with their second-half performance against Chris Boyd's team that they are a threat.
They have a talented first-five in Elton Jantjies, pace in their backline, and an extremely strong pack. The Crusaders are unlikely to buckle at set piece time like the Hurricanes did, the visitors going backwards in the scrum and losing several lineouts, but the Lions proved they can find a way to win.
It is their free and ambitious style that sets them apart from the other South African teams, a style deliberately settled on by coach Johan Ackermann, who has one final shot at glory before he departs for Gloucester.
He went close last year, his side losing the final to the Hurricanes in Wellington after -
significantly - beating the Crusaders in their quarter-final at Ellis Park, and has proven an astute and inspirational figure for the Lions.
Up against him is Scott Robertson, the coach of the Crusaders in his first year at this level and who has already exceeded most expectations.
He has taken his side back to their traditions of a committed and watertight defence allied with the ability to strike on the counter, all qualities shown to the fullest in their semifinal victory over the Chiefs at AMI Stadium.
The Crusaders lost their chance to finish top of the table when losing to the Hurricanes in their final round-robin match in Wellington. Ironically perhaps, Boyd's team have again disadvantaged them by losing at Ellis Park despite leading 22-3 at one stage.
A victory for the Hurricanes would have resulted in a final in Christchurch, but now Ackermann's team are perhaps favourites to win their first title. While it's a potential nightmare scenario for the Crusaders and their fans, for Ackermann, it's a dream come true.
"That's what I always hoped for, that the day I finished here would be in front of our home fans and on our own field," he said after his team's remarkable 44-29 victory. "I'm so humbled. This journey has been so special over the last few years with a special bunch of men and they just proved it [today]. I just want to thank my players."
Ackermann said last year's victory over the Crusaders in the playoffs in what was Todd Blackadder's final year in charge won't count for much.
"The Crusaders are a quality side; their background, their history. Looking at last year won't help," he said.
Robertson had his side's defence to thank for their 27-13 win over a Chiefs side who surprised with their performance. Dave Rennie's men were unlucky to see what appeared to be a Tim Nanai-Williams try ruled out for a knock-on in the grounding and they put enormous pressure on the hosts despite having to travel home from Cape Town.
Despite having only 30 per cent possession, the Crusaders out-scored the Chiefs four tries to win, a performance they will have to repeat at high altitude next Sunday morning.