Lions scrum-half Ross Cronje felt his team reached the level they had been aiming for all year as a stunning second-half display sent the South African franchise into the Super Rugby final at the expense of the Hurricanes.
A repeat of the 2016 final looked highly likely to end in another Hurricanes triumph when the visitors to Johannesburg charged into a 22-3 lead during the first half on Saturday.
However, the Lions reduced the deficit just before the interval through Jacques van Rooyen and then ran in five tries during a remarkably one-sided second half to triumph 44-29.
Referencing the Lions’ sloppy performance in a narrow quarter-final victory over the Sharks, man of the match Cronje said during the post-match presentation: “We came out here and had something to prove from last week. I really believe in the second half we played the type of rugby that we as the Lions have been striving to play throughout this whole season.”
Cronje insisted he and his team-mates had not required a dressing down at half-time.
“[There were] no stern words – there was always that belief in the team,” he added.
“The coach [Johan Ackermann] just revved us up at half-time and the boys went out there and really showed what we can do.”
Hurricanes skipper Dane Coles had no complaints over the end result as his side’s title defence was brought to an end.
— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) July 29, 2017
The All Blacks hooker said: “We just didn’t come out and do what we did in that first half. They got a bit of momentum on and they took it right to us.
“We gave it everything we got and unfortunately we came up short. The better team won on the day.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now