Rugby: The Waratahs will return home battered and beaten after being mauled by the Sharks in Durban.
WARATAHS coach Daryl Gibson has forecast a shake-up of his backline and a team-wide spray on discipline after another heavy defeat against the Sharks gave the Waratahs’ worst-ever tour of South Africa.
With a critical derby clash at home against the Brumbies on Saturday, the Waratahs must pick themselves up quickly after the Sharks mauled them 37-14 in Durban.
The Sharks feasted on a steady stream of mistakes and penalties to all-but end the contest at halftime with a 31-7 lead. NSW rallied somewhat to win the second half 7-6 — with Israel Folau scoring his second try — but they never looked likely to haul in the impressively physical Sharks outfit.
The defeat came after a 55-36 thumping against the Lions and though it was the seventh time the Waratahs have come home from South Africa without a victory, the combined 92 points conceded in two games is comfortably their biggest total.
Gibson said the positive of the Durban performance was an improved defensive effort but holding the Sharks to three tries meant little given the Waratahs also gave away 18 points in penalties, and effectively handed each of the hosts’ tries to them on a platter.
Two of the Sharks’ five-pointers came directly from dropped NSW passes, and the other came in the opening minutes when poor attempts to exit their quarter with box kicks.
“We are frustrated by our own inconsistency in our game — sometimes the Waratahs are beating the Waratahs. It’s disappointing,” Gibson said.
“That’s what is under our control. They did well to capitalise on our errors and our mistakes. At times we looked good with the ball in hand and at times looked good on defence. It is just at times the concentration has lapsed and that let us down.”
“The work on that we will take away from this tour is definitely our discipline.”
Brain fade lapses in discipline in both losses were costly for NSW. It got lost in the try-frenzy but the Waratahs also gave up 18 points in penalties against the Lions as well.
In total, NSW have given up three yellow cards and 42 points in penalties in three rounds.
After poor first halves playing expansive rugby in each game too, the potential for NSW to tighten up and play more direct rugby looks on the cards against the Brumbies.
Gibson hooked Irae Simone and put Rob Horne into No.12 for more punch at halftime in Durban and he said he’d reconsider the entire backline structure this week.
“At the moment everything is up for review,” Gibson said.
“It’s more looking at our effectiveness. Are our combinations working and have we got our men in the right spots?”
The absence of Bernard Foley has been painfully obvious for the Tahs and there will be a thousand sky blue fingers crossed the Wallabies No.10 can return this week.
It’s understood Foley’s lingering symptom was occasional blurred vision but Gibson said his star is “feeling better”. But even if Foley is still out, Bryce Hegarty may not stay at No. 10.
Hegarty struggled for impact in Durban and Gibson said he’d consider all the playmaker options to meet the Brumbies.
David Horwitz’s length off the boot late in the game would have been food for thought.
Andrew Kellaway has a shoulder niggle but Folau’s busy game would likely keep him at No.13. Hegarty or Cam Clark are even seen as fullback alternatives ahead of Folau.
In the forwards, Jed Holloway, Will Skelton and Ned Hanigan are all expected back as well.
With the Brumbies having beaten the Force and Queensland snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against the Crusaders, the ACT lead the Australian conference with one win.
Gibson sidestepped questions of the Aussie conference’s quality — hearing just four wins from 14 games — and said victory over the Brumbies will be vital given how tight the final race is likely to be come July.
“I can’t speak for the other teams but we are working through our own issues,” he said.
“Brumbies-Waratahs is a big fixture, particularly given where both teams are at and the points in the conference. Any game against Australian opposition is going to be crucial.”
Originally published as ‘Sometimes the Waratahs are beating the Waratahs’