Lions coach John Mitchell says the plethora of injuries his side suffered at the start of the season meant they started the Super Rugby season on the wrong foot.
“You've got to go to the core issues, you can look at any permutation that you want,” said Mitchell in Johannesburg on Thursday.
“But to lose nine of your starting XV that won us the Currie Cup, and not have our current Test players, within the first week of the competition was always going to set us back,” he said.
The struggling Johannesburg team won their only match of the Super Rugby season in the first week of the competition back in February against the Cheetahs.
They have since lost every single match, battling to find continuity in both selection and performances.
Mitchell said injuries to experienced campaigners meant he had to find replacements elsewhere within their structures, which were not adequate for Super Rugby.
“You've got to be a realist at the end of the day.
“This competition is not about development ultimately but we've actually had to go into this competition and develop early and we suffered as a result,” he said.
The Lions lost all four of their matches on their tour of Australasia, but Mitchell still managed to find positive aspects from the otherwise helpless situation.
“The team did grow and a lot of the guys that are experiencing Super Rugby for the first time have actually grown as individuals.
“The team work is slowly coming together, the set pieces and the lineouts have become better.
“But with the amount of changes that have occurred - I think we are pretty close to 19 changes in our team mix in this competition - team coherency has been hard to achieve.”
He said the inconsistency in team selection has had a knock-on effect on other dynamics within the team.
“Hence there was an element of indecisiveness at times and younger guys have struggled with the physical load of this competition,” he said.
“So I think they would have learnt a lot which would ultimately help us going into our next campaign.”
Meanwhile, Mitchell made four changes to their team on Thursday as they go in search of their second victory this season when they face the Sharks in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Lock Hendrik Roodt replaces Ruan Botha, who has been called up to the SA Under-20 team, while Anthonie Volminck will receive a starting berth in the place of Michael Killian on the wing.
Butch James will fill the shoes of centre Jaco Taute, who has been ruled out due to a shoulder injury.
The Lions will also be boosted by the return of Waylon Murray, who has been selected on the bench.
Andries Coetzee, Deon van Rensburg, Lionel Mapoe, Butch James, Anthonie Volminck, Elton Jantjies, Tian Meyer, Joshua Strauss (captain), Grant Hattingh, Derick Minnie, Franco van der Merwe, Hendrik Roodt, Patric Cilliers, Callie Visagie, CJ van der Linde. Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, JC Janse van Rensburg, Etienne Oosthuizen, Cobus Grobbelaar, Ross Cronje, Waylon Murray, Ruan Combrinck. – Sapa