SYDNEY (Reuters) – The New South Wales Waratahs’ failure to convert their chances has cost them dear this season but while Saturday’s defeat to the Sharks was yet another example of their wastefulness they have not given up hope of making the Super Rugby playoffs.
The Waratahs, semi-finalists last year, had hoped to reclaim the Australian conference lead from the Melbourne Rebels but were undone by a lack of discipline and a massive Sharks pack.
The Australian side were reduced to 13 men for 10 minutes of the game and were beaten 23-15 in western Sydney by the Sharks, who moved top of the South African conference on 26 points.
The Waratahs, on 20 points, four behind the Rebels in the Australian group, left Sydney on Sunday for South Africa where they will play the Bulls and Lions.
Not on the flight were injured forwards Tolu Latu, Rory O’Connor and Jack Dempsey, while lock Jed Holloway was also left behind after he received a red card for throwing an elbow at Thomas du Toit and will face the SANZAAR judiciary.
Coach Daryl Gibson said the trip would have a big influence on the rest of their season.
“We are at a critical juncture,” he said. “It’s going to require us to show a great deal of resilience.
“We have got an opportunity to go to South Africa and play some positive footy and that’s all we can do.
“It’s very clear what we need to do and get from that tour.”
Gibson acknowledged the side was struggling to score tries, especially without top tryscorers last season Taqele Naiyaravoro (15), who has moved overseas, and Israel Folau (11), who has been stood down pending a code-of-conduct hearing after he made controversial posts on his social media accounts.
“We seem to be putting ourselves in position to score tries and not taking them as well as we could,” Gibson said of his side, who have scored just 26 tries — the worst of the four Australian sides.
“We’re not capitalising on those critical moments and not executing that stuff. And when you’re short of try-scoring, that’s going to hurt you.”
Captain Michael Hooper said his side had struggled to match the Sharks in the physical battle, which is something they would need to address ahead of their clash with the Bulls and their huge pack in Pretoria next week.
“As far as the game plan goes … we can’t grow, but what we can do is move them (around the field),” Hooper said. “It’s a chipping away thing, you shift the ball away from them and how we manipulate that is pretty important for us.
“(But), we’re not dead in the water yet. There’s still a heap to go … and we have the opportunity to go there and play some good rugby.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)