Captain Dave Dennis says the NSW Waratahs must be smarter with their renowned physicality and aggression after losing a third player to suspension in the space of a week.
Super Rugby’s defending champions were twice reduced to 14-men when winger Rob Horne and flanker Jacques Potgieter were sinbinned during their 27-22 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg early Sunday AEST.
Late on Sunday (AEST) Horne received a three-week SANZAR suspension after being charged with foul play for his tip tackle on Lions centre Lionel Mapoe.
He pleaded guilty to the charge.
The ban comes just a few days after Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu and lock Will Skelton were suspended for their involvement in a tip tackle on Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock in Sydney last weekend.
Potgieter was binned for a late tackle in which he failed to use his arms.
That followed a couple of incidents in the Crusaders game when Skelton used his shoulder and no arms on opponents, although he escaped sanction for those.
“They are obviously cracking down a bit on foul play or whatever you want to call it, stuff off the ball,” lock Dennis told AAP.
“We lost two guys tonight to the bin, so that’s 20 minutes with 14 men.
“We’ve got to be a lot smarter around that sort of stuff.
“Obviously maintain the aggression and physicality, but just be a bit smarter around what we do.”
The Waratahs and Lions each scored three tries in an entertaining game, with the Tahs rallying late to secure a bonus point which put them on top of the Australian conference.
Lions winger Ruan Combrinck scored two well-executed first-half tries with the Tahs missing twice as many tackles as the home team before the break.
“Our attitude was good, we were just making more mistakes,” Dennis said.
“There was a couple of really bad errors that cost us tries.”
The Waratahs hit the lead for the only time midway through the first half after flanker Stephen Hoiles burrowed over from close range following several phases and five-eighth Bernard Foley converted for a 10-7 advantage.
It lasted only 10 minutes as Lions’ five-eighth Elton Jantjes kicked the penalty awarded after Horne’s indiscretion and he converted Combrinck’s second try for a 17-10 halftime lead.
Combrinck set up his team’s third try for centre Harold Vorster.
Kurtley Beale, making his 100th Super appearance for the Waratahs, dragged them back into the contest.
He sent centre partner Adam Ashley-Cooper over with a sublime cut-out pass and threw the final ball for Horne’s try.
Jantjes kept the visitors in the game with three missed penalties in the last quarter.
“I thought we showed good character in the second half to fight back and come away with a pretty crucial bonus point. But disappointed we gave them too much of a start,” Dennis said.