IT was a baptism of fire for new Lions head coach Hans Coetzee when his charges suffered a 19-13 setback against the Blue Bulls in their opening Absa Currie Cup game at Loftus on Saturday.
The former Lions under-21 mentor took over from Eugene Eloff who was asked to step down after the team's poor showing in the Super 14.
Despite leading 13-0 at the break, the Lions fell into a familiar pattern as they lost focus and that cost them valuable points.
Coetzee is facing the Herculean task of trying to change the team's tendency to go to sleep at crucial times in the match.
They performed quite well in the first period, especially in the scrums but they failed to punish the sometimes erratic Bulls side who gradually found their footing and ultimately emerged victorious in a hard-fought clash.
The Lions opened the scoring early in the game through flyhalf Herkie Kruger's penalty in front of the posts.
Wiilem Alberts's try and Kruger's conversion saw the Lions leading 13-0 at the interval.
But poor handling and a lack of communication afforded the Bulls an opportunity to reorganise and they started bullying the Lions in all departments.
Tiger Mangweni and Gerhard van den Heever scored the Bulls's tries.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Western Province beat defending champions the Sharks 29-15 at Newlands.
In Bloemfontein on Friday, the Griquas caused a major upset when they beat the Free State Cheetahs 28-18 in front of their supporters.