2016 Lions team. Image: X/Twitter

OPINION: This is the best Lions team EVER!

The 2016-2018 Lions: Best ever? With star players, three finals, and exciting rugby, this team left a lasting impact on SA rugby.


2016 Lions team. Image: X/Twitter

The Lions, a South African rugby union team based in Johannesburg, have had a remarkable run in recent years, particularly from 2016 to 2018. During this period, they reached the Super Rugby final in 2016, 2017 and 2018, showcasing an exciting brand of rugby that captivated fans across the globe. But the question remains: is this the best Lions team we have ever seen?

The Lions’ Journey to the Top

The Lions’ rise to prominence in Super Rugby has been nothing short of impressive. After years of struggling in the competition, the team underwent a transformation under the guidance of head coach Johan Ackermann.

With a focus on attacking rugby and a strong team culture, the Lions quickly became a force to be reckoned with1.

Key Players in the Lions’ Success

One of the key factors in the Lions’ success during this period was the emergence of several standout players. Hooker Malcolm Marx established himself as one of the best in the world, with his powerful scrummaging and dynamic play in the loose. 

Lock Franco Mostert was a workhorse in the engine room, while fullback Andries Coetzee provided a reliable last line of defence.

In the backline, the Lions boasted a wealth of talent. Wings Ruan Combrinck and Courtnall Skosan were constant threats out wide, while centres Lionel Mapoe and Rohan Janse van Rensburg formed a formidable midfield partnership. 

The halfback pairing of Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk provided the team with direction and stability.

The Lions’ Exciting Brand of Rugby

What set the Lions apart during this period was their commitment to playing an exciting brand of rugby. With a focus on attacking from all areas of the field, the Lions consistently scored tries and entertained fans with their high-octane style of play.

This approach was epitomised by the team’s loose forward trio of Warren Whiteley, Kwagga Smith, and Jaco Kriel. These players were instrumental in the Lions’ success, with their ability to link play between forwards and backs and create opportunities for their teammates.

The 2017 Super Rugby Final

The pinnacle of the Lions’ success during this period came in 2017, when they reached the Super Rugby final against the Crusaders. In a thrilling match played in Johannesburg, the Lions fought valiantly but ultimately fell short, losing 25-17.

Despite the disappointment of the loss, the Lions’ performance in the final showcased the quality of the team. They went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in Super Rugby history and pushed them all the way, earning the respect of fans and pundits alike.

The Legacy of the 2016-2018 Lions Team

While the Lions may have fallen short of ultimate glory during this period, there is no denying the impact that this team had on South African rugby. They played an exciting brand of rugby that captured the imagination of fans and helped to reignite interest in the sport in the country.

The success of the Lions during this period also helped to establish several players as household names in South African rugby. Marx, Mostert, De Klerk, and others went on to become key players for the Springboks, helping the national team to win the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and 2023.


In conclusion, while it is difficult to definitively say whether the 2016-2018 Lions team is the best we have ever seen, there is no denying the impact that this group of players had on South African rugby.

With their exciting brand of play, strong team culture, and wealth of individual talent, the Lions captured the hearts and minds of fans across the country and helped to usher in a new era of success for South African rugby.