Johannesburg – The Lions' fringe players were like lambs to the slaughter in their final warm-up match against a full-strength Sharks team that annihilated them 57-14 at Ellis Park on Friday.
While the Sharks had little in terms of strong opposition to make final adjustments before the start of Super Rugby next weekend, the Lions' depth have been shown up against one of the possible title contenders.
The visitors romped to a 31-0 lead going into the half-time break as they seemed to cross the whitewash when they were in the mood.
Sharks director of rugby Jake White indicated that the run-on side were the likely troops he would take into battle when they kick-off their campaign against the Bulls in Durban next Saturday.
Lions boss Johan Ackermann, however, opted to rest most of their stalwarts with the fear of injuries before the start of Super Rugby no doubt weighing heavily on the decision.
It was therefore a mismatch with an already well-oiled Sharks machine brimming with Springbok players taking on an uncooked Lions team.
This point was emphasised only 90 seconds into the match when Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane found his way over the tryline after an initial break by flyhalf Pat Lambie.
Play came to an abrupt stop in the fourth minute when match referee Jason Jaftha had to be stretchered off the field with what seemed like a knee injury.
The brief distraction did little to suppress the Sharks' relentless attack on the Lions' advantage line as they took a two-pronged approach through driving mauls upfront and swift hands at the back.
Lambie spearheaded the Sharks' attack through solid tactical kicking, while he also launched dangerous attacking runs.
Ndungane again crossed the whitewash in the 14th minute after he gathered an SP Marais grubber kick inside the Lions' 22-metre line to dot down, with Lambie converting.
Four minutes later it was Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit to get onto the scoresheet as he powered his way over the line after some good interplay between the Sharks players.
Lambie converted to take the score to 19-0 before a moment of brilliance by the Sharks pivot led to their third try of the evening.
With ball in hand, he spotted Lwazi Mvovo on the left wing and lopped the ball to the flyer, who did well to control the ball to go over in the corner where he had little room to manoeuvre.
With the half-time break looming, the Sharks struck another debilitating blow when centre Francois Steyn had an easy passage over the tryline, with Lambie converting to give his side an imposing 31-0 lead.
White made wholesale changes for the second half as he sent his entire bench onto the track, while the Lions made some minor changes.
The Sharks continued where they left off with replacement centre S'bura Sithole scoring his first five pointer of the game four minutes into the second half, with Fred Zeilinga converting.
While the hosts seemed more combative after the break, the changes to the Sharks team also stemmed some of the momentum they had in the first 40 minutes.
The visitors nevertheless continued their march when Stephan Lewies scored from a driving maul from a lineout which Zeilinga converted (38-0).
The Lions finally got onto the scoreboard when Stephan Vermeulen added the first try to their score-sheet, but the respite was short-lived as the Sharks scored shortly after through Jaco van Tonder in the 65th minute.
The home side found their way over the line again when fullback Coenie van Wyk added a five-pointer two minutes before time, which he converted to take the score to 50-14.
The Sharks, however, had the final say in the match when Sithole grabbed his brace, with Zeilinga converting for a comprehensive 57-14 victory.
Scorers: Lions 14 (0): Tries: Stephan Vermeulen, Coenie van Wyk. Conversions: Willie du Plessis (2).
Sharks 57 (31): Tries: Odwa Ndungane (2), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lwazi Mvovo, Frans Steyn, S'bura Sithole (2), Stephan Lewies, Jaco van Tonder. Conversions: Patrick Lambie (3), Fred Zeilinga (3). – Sapa