They'd finish top of the regular season table for the first time in their history and at full strength last year they could boast an All Black in every position across the back-line. It all went so perfectly until the very last act as the Highlanders pulled off one of the great upsets to topple them in their own backyard.
The emotional scars will likely weigh just as heavily as the departure of their veteran trio will in 2016, but the talent that remains is scary enough.
Nehe Milner-Skudder has joined Julian Savea as a virtual must-start on the wing for the All Blacks while forwards Dane Coles and Victor Vito have only just reached their prime. And the Hurricanes will surely have enough in reserve to give the Lions a real challenge in between the first and second Tests in 2017.
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