It wasn't to be for the World Champions, however, as New Zealand ran out 19-8 winners in front of a crowd of 36,000 at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.
The Lions management will have watched closely as their 2009 opponents went in search of their first win on Kiwi soil for a decade in rain-soaked conditions at the home of the Hurricanes. Wellington has proved a largely unkind venue to the Lions, with the best Britain and Ireland has to offer claiming only two Test victories in 11 attempts, and the venue proved similarly unkind to the Springboks.
The game finished one try apiece but the boot of Lions nemesis Dan Carter proved the difference as he kicked four penalties and a conversion from six attempts for a personal haul of 14 points.
The Lions know all about Carter's match-winning ability, with the new Perpignan outside-half scoring a massive 33 points during the All Blacks' series-clinching win over Sir Clive Woodward's tourists three years ago.
Trailing 9-3 just before half-time, the Springboks scored the first try of a compelling match thanks to the outstanding pace of Bryan Habana. The Blue Bulls winger finished off a superb counter-attacking move to bring the visitors back to within a single point of the All Blacks going into the interval.
Both South African centres were prominently involved as they attacked from deep following an All Black chip ahead. Impressive footwork from Adrian Jacobs provided the initial space for Jean de Villiers to slice through the New Zealand defence after picking the sweetest of lines. De Villiers then drew the last defender to set Habana free, with one of the world's most respected wingers needing no second invitation to register his 31st Test try.
Habana's try proved to be the last Springbok score of the match as the All Blacks turned up the pressure in difficult conditions. No8 Jerome Kaino crossed six minutes after the break to move the reigning Tri Nations Champions two scores clear and establish a more comfortable lead which they never looked like relinquishing.
South Africa now turn their attentions to the second of three successive away matches and a repeat of this morning's fixture. This time, the Springboks take on the All Blacks in Dunedin next Saturday as they aim to get their Tri Nations campaign back on track.