A bye couldn’t have come at a better time for a battered and bruised NSW Waratahs, after losing two Wallabies and a new recruit to injury in a costly Super Rugby derby loss to the Brumbies.
Tatafu Polota-Nau, Rob Horne and Bryce Hegarty were among the casualties in the tough and bloody 32-15 defeat at GIO Stadium on Friday night.
Hooker Polota-Nau is facing another lengthy stint on the sidelines after fracturing his arm in his 132nd Super Rugby appearance – the equal-second highest by a Waratah.
He suffered a similar injury in May 2013, also in a match against the Brumbies, which cost him a spot in the Wallabies side for that year’s British and Irish Lions tour.
Luck wasn’t on the side of winger Horne either, hurting his knee just months after a picking up shoulder injury early in a pool game against England at last year’s World Cup.
The outlook looks worst, though, for former Melbourne Rebels playmaker Hegarty, who sustained possible ACL damage in just his second game for the Waratahs off the bench.
The 2014 champions could also be without Tolu Latu, who was cited post-match for allegedly punching or striking Brumby Matt Toomua in the face and causing a bloody nose during an all-in melee.
“It was a tough night,” coach Daryl Gibson said.
“But injuries are all part of the season and that’s why you have a squad.”
Skipper Michael Hooper said the Brumbies’ game was just the first of a run of physical battles, with the `Tahs hosting defending champions the Highlanders later this month before facing the Queensland Reds in Brisbane.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” he said.
“There’s a bit of a toll on our team but we back our staff to get us right and they’ve done that so far after a pretty demanding start to the season.
“I just want the team to get better because there’s so much potential.”
Gibson admitted his charges lacked a bit of poise and accuracy at the breakdown, but saw enough passion, commitment and improvement on their opening round win over the Reds to be optimistic about the future.
He said consistency was key going forward.
“Some of the areas of inaccuracy is plaguing us at the moment,” he said.
“It’s certainly not terminal. It’s round two.
“What it does do is give us clear direction on what we need to improve on.
“Currently the Brumbies are setting the standard and now we know where that standard is.”