Hurricanes welcome a 'fairer' Super Rugby format for 2018
Thankfully we never had to find out how unpalatable a Lions win would've been.
If Super Rugby was skewed in favour of one team in 2017, it was the Johannesburg-based franchise.
From not having a New Zealand team on their draw, which enabled them to have home advantage, to having South Africans referees for their playoff matches, there wasn't much that didn't go in the Lions' favour.
Sharks fans, among others, will still be wondering why Marius van der Westhuizen didn't award them a last-second penalty that would've knocked the Lions out at the quarterfinal stage.
Next year's 15-team draw is yet to be made public, although the teams are in possession of a final draft. Having given it a good look, Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee said fans could expect a far more level playing field.
"We, as teams, we feel it's a much fairer system, and that much more of a real top-eight will feature, as opposed to a manufactured system, because the winners of each conference will be very good teams and then places four to eight are not dependent on conference so you could have, dare I say, four New Zealand teams," Lee said.
The five New Zealand teams will play home-and-away within their conference, before meeting four of the five teams from each of the Australian and South African conferences. The winners of each conference qualify for the playoffs and will be joined by the five next-best teams, regardless of geography.
"I genuinely think Sanzaar have listened to all the various stakeholders and, while it's been painful for everybody - especially the Western Force - over recent weeks and months, I think the competition will be a better competition," said Lee.
"The Australian teams and South African teams will be more competitive, because there's less of them, and then I'm really excited about the Hurricanes. We were disappointed with the way we finished [with a semifinal loss to the Lions] but I know we've got a very determined group of players and management who are looking forward to next year."
You can't change the fact that the New Zealand derbies are more keenly fought than the others. But at least, having bashed each other up, the New Zealand teams will no longer have to watch a quota system secure weaker sides a playoff berth.
"It's definitely going down the right track," Lee said.
"You look back at the original Super 12, which I think was a fantastic competition, and I think it's probably getting closer back to that. It's a much stronger competition."
The Hurricanes will have eight home games next year and hope to have 8000 season members signed up by then. From just 1902 members at the end of the 2015 season, that number's swelled to 6700 and is merely a fraction of what the franchise hope for.
"We've set ourselves a target of 15,000 by 2021, so we want to grow this and we want to make this something special for the members and to attract our fans into becoming members," said Lee.
He added that crowds were up 19.5 per cent since 2015, largely based on performance. Runner's-up in 2015, the team were champions the following year, before bowing out in this season's semifinals.