The Crusaders players deserve success after a number of near misses in recent years, coach Scott Robertson says.
The Crusaders won their eighth Super Rugby title with a convincing 25-17 win over the Lions in the final in Johannesburg.
After getting out to an early 12-nil lead, the Crusaders' chances were boosted just before half-time when Lions flanker Kwagga Smith was red carded for taking out David Havili in the air.
When Kieran Read scored for the visitors shortly after the break the result looked to be sealed, but the Lions kept pushing, scoring two tries in the final quarter against tiring opposition.
However, the Crusaders held on, claiming their first Super Rugby title in nine years.
Robertson said it was a hard grind.
"The last 20 [minutes] everyone was out on their feet and just shows how hard it is to get a win here at altitude so our defence won us the championship, there's no doubt about it," he said.
"We scored enough points, we had to get up early because we knew we couldn't chase the Lions with 20 to go, no team has done that. We did what we had to."
Robertson said they were proud to have added to the Crusaders' Super Rugby legacy.
"We did it for ourselves and for the people but for the past Crusaders as well, they set high expectations. We've got a number of All Blacks that have won at the All Black level and they have now as a Crusader so we've put that well and truly to bed."
Captain Sam Whitelock is one of those All Blacks.
"A number of us have been here for eight or nine years and never tasted victory and out there it was awesome just to look your mate in the eye, no words needed to be spoken and emotion just came out of everyone so to have that feeling is amazing."
The Crusaders took a difficult route to the title and Robertson was pleased with the character the team showed.
"To win against the Brumbies away and then to win this away, the only two teams to do it, that's what Crusaders do, that's what I'm really proud of. We really worked hard and we created opportunities to create history and we have."
Lions coach Johan Ackermann was frustrated with the red card.
Ackermann did not dispute the officials were right in terms of applying the rules, but said red cards for such incidents were wrong.
"I don't think 62,000 people pay to see a 15 versus 14 game. The player can get disciplined afterwards especially if it's not out of the law in the sense that it's a kick in the face or punch or dirty play.
"I suppose the New Zealand people are happy now that Jaco [Peyper] is a good ref because last week he wasn't a good ref."
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said while the situation was unfortunate, Peyper handled it the right way.
"Jaco was calm, he was clear, he thought it was red, he went to the TMO, he thought it was red. To the letter of the law it was red. It's just a shame it happened in the final. Kwagga Smith had an unbelievable season and we knew he was a big threat and it's a shame we've got a red in the final and it probably did affect the outcome to an extent."
Ackermann was proud of the way his team didn't give up.
"I asked them at half time not to give up, keep faith, and keep fighting and they did that at the end. You even got the feeling if the game was a bit longer we could have pulled it so to me that was quite satisfying that they never game up it but it's a tough one but that's sport."
Whitelock said the atmosphere at Ellis Park was amazing and the home supporters were generous in their applause after the final whistle.
"One thing I did see after the game, full credit to the Lions, they went around and picked up all the water bottles and all the tape that was on the ground and I just thought that summed up who they are as people and the team culture they have. They didn't let their standards drop at all."
Whitelock said it meant a lot to be able to bring back the trophy for the a city which has been through a lot.
"We've played a number of seasons since the earthquakes and stuff and we've got close a couple of times. It's going to be awesome just to get home and get back to our supporters in Christchurch and the wider region... just to see them walking down the street, you just have that connection. The whole team is really proud of the way the whole community has got in behind us this year."