The Lions conceded their third consecutive defeat to the Jaguares in Argentina with a 49-35 loss in Buenos Aires on Saturday night.
The Johannesburg-based team went in with their strongest possible squad – barring a few injuries – this time around under new coach Swys de Bruin, having previously rested players for the trip to South America under previous boss Johan Ackermann.
But despite a stirring second-half comeback, which saw the Super Rugby finalists of the last two years coming within four points of the hosts, the Jaguares produced a late spurt to claim the victory.
While their ability to score tries is undoubted, the Lions’ defence again let them down as they allowed the Jaguares to race into a 26-14 lead at halftime.
That saw De Bruin throwing on Springbok star Malcolm Marx off the bench to spark a revival, and the dynamic hooker produced the goods, scoring two tries.
His second touchdown, and a conversion from Elton Jantjies, took the Lions to within four points of the lead at 39-35 with about 10 minutes to go, and it looked as if they were finally going to taste victory at their hoodoo ground.
But it was not to be in the end. Jaguares No 8 Javier Ortega Desio dotted down with eight minutes left, and star flyhalf Nicholas Sanchez – who scored 19 points with the boot on the day – added the conversion and a late penalty to seal the deal.
Jaguares 49 – Tries: Bautista Delguy, Emiliano Boffelli (2), Javier Ortego Desio (2), Bautista Ezcurra. Conversions: Nicolas Sanches (5). Penalties: Sanchez (3).
Lions 35 – Tries: Marvin Orie, Sylvian Mahuza, Malcolm Marx (2), Lourens Erasmus. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5).