The Crusaders' reward for their gutsy semifinal victory over the Chiefs is a flight to Johannesburg to play the Lions in the final; the good news for them is that No8 Kieran Read has made it too.
Scott Robertson's men met at Christchurch airport at 4.15 this morning for the flight to South Africa via Sydney for the final at Ellis Park next Sunday morning.
After last night's 27-13 victory over the Chiefs at AMI Stadium, Robertson wasn't sure of All Blacks skipper Read's fitness due to a knee injury late in the match which forced the Crusaders to play the final minutes with 14 men.
Fortunately for the Crusaders, Read's knee - "tweaked" according to Robertson - isn't as bad as first feared. A Crusaders spokeswoman confirmed to the Herald this morning that Read is on his way with the rest of the squad.
The opponent and location of the final wasn't confirmed until early this morning after the other semifinal between the Lions and Hurricanes, won by the South Africans 44-29 after the visitors had taken a 22-3 lead.
The Crusaders players' bags were packed earlier in the week and once the result was confirmed thoughts went to a long-haul flight rather than another home match.
They should travel in good spirits given they have no major injury issues and showed in beating the Chiefs with only about 30 per cent possession that they are a team that can dig deeply if required, but the Hurricanes' performance highlighted the need for accuracy in terms of preparation and game plan this week.
The Hurricanes got few favours from the four South African officials, with Beauden Barrett's yellow card in the second half for a playing the ball on the ground in a ruck which looked more accidental than anything particularly costly.
Robertson is aware too that they can't afford another team to dominate possession and territory again, and the Lions, while they made mistakes against the Hurricanes, showed in their second half effort that they can be extremely dangerous with the ball and from anywhere on the field.
"It's satisfying but it's a funny feeling because we're not finished," Robertson said. "You get this far and the opportunity is really close and we have to perform for one more week.
"Obviously our defensive resolve was incredible. It just shows how much the boys care.
"We made over 200 tackles. Matt Todd made 22, I think. We had close to 30 per cent possession. We have to look at ourselves. They had a great game plan of holding the ball for long periods of time. We probably can't do that next week against another team.
"What I was really impressed with was we took our opportunities when they arose. We defended for long periods, got turnovers, a bit of counter-attack and we scored... it's pretty disheartening for the opposition if you score straight away and keep that scoreboard pressure going."
The Crusaders, having beaten the Highlanders at home in their quarter-final, and a tough Chiefs side who played extremely well despite the travel home from Cape Town during the week in their semifinal, will have to do it the hard way if they are to win their eighth title.
No side has won a final away from home since 2007 when the Bulls beat the Sharks in Durban.