Their march to the semi-finals of the Currie Cup - they were beaten by the Sharks - made up for some of the pain felt by indifferent Super 14 campaign, but there is real optimism for the coming year.
The Xerox Lions are due to meet Ian McGeechan's tourists at Coca-Cola Park on Wednesday, 3 June in their second outing and home coach Eugene Eloff now has a bigger pool of talent to work with.
While he only had one Springbok to call upon last season, the return to fitness of key players and the acquisition of others means he will have three members of the 2007 World Cup winning squad to play with this year.
Desperate to shed to tag of Super 14 wooden spoon winners for the past two seasons, the availability of World Cup winners Jacque Fourie, Ashwin Willemse and Andre Pretorius will not only boost Eloff's back line power, but make the task facing McGeechan's Lions in Johannesburg that much tougher.
While Fourie and Pretorious are now fully fit, Willemse has returned to his former team from France, where he has been playing for Biarritz Olympique in the Top 14.
"There is big excitement in the camp. The bulk of the squad now has about three years of Super 14 experience," said Eloff.
"It's great to have Andre and Jacque back and fully fit, and Ashwin has returned from France. He is getting back to top pace having finally got over his injury niggles.
"The backline is new and that's why we are spending a lot of time working on making it more effective. A top half of the table finish in the Super 14 is our realistic goal."
The 27-year-old Willemse, a former SA Rugby Player of the Year, spent a year in France and found himself playing second-fiddle to US Eagles flyer Takudzwa Ngwenya.
"It was a last-minute decision really to come back. I missed the sunshine and the people here in South Africa and, to be honest, I found it really difficult to adjust to life in France," admitted Willemse.
"The culture is so different to what I know over here ... the food is different and it was difficult to understand the language. I never got to grips with French.
"It was a great experience though, and the rugby was good. But I'm glad to be back."
The Xerox Lions have also recruited the American Eagles skipper and No 8, Todd Cleaver for the coming campaign.