Finals on line as out-of-sync Waratahs face decade-long Lions hoodoo

The Waratahs are officially in a rut, having fallen short in four of their last five matches, which puts them fourth in the Australian conference with six rounds remaining.


Upcoming fixtures against the Lions (away), Reds (away), Jaguares (home), Rebels (away), Brumbies (home) and Highlanders (away) also won’t put the underperforming team at ease.

There was a telling line in captain Michael Hooper’s post-match comments that summed up his frustrations. “Discipline [cost us] and the usual things,” he said.

While Hooper did not elaborate on what those repeat mistakes were, clearly the messages from coaches and senior players are not filtering down to the rest of the squad.

Their next assignment in South Africa is a rematch of last year’s semi-final when the Waratahs went down 44-28.

Earlier in the season, they were thumped 29-0 at home by the Lions, which exposed a real divide between the sides.

However, the Lions have very much come back to the pack. They are last in the South African conference, six points behind the Bulls and Sharks in equal first.

The Waratahs had their chance to knock off the Bulls by levelling scores in the 68th minute but could not finish the job.

Despite back-to-back losses against the Sharks and Bulls in recent weeks, Gibson has remained reasonably upbeat, particularly when it comes to the effort of his players.

“It was pleasing we stayed in the fight,” Gibson said. “I thought we showed some nice touches with the ball in hand but disappointed at the end we had some opportunities we didn’t nail. When we see the tape on Monday we will be disappointed with that.

“Overall in terms of the game the Bulls had dominance at scrum-time on the day and I think that proved the difference between the two sides.”

Meanwhile, hooker Tolu Latu has joined the Waratahs in South Africa after missing the weekend’s match with a calf injury he picked up against the Sharks.

Should Latu be cleared to play, he is likely to replace Andrew Tuala.

Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald

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