NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson may have to plug more holes than he initially thought with question marks over the future of Wallaby forwards Tatafu Polota-Nau and Dean Mumm.
In their maiden year under Gibson, the Waratahs missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
A loss to the Blues in Auckland on Friday followed by the Brumbies win over the Force on Saturday, meant the Canberra-based franchise grabbed the only Australian place in the playoffs.
New Zealander Gibson already knew he was going to lose around 450 caps of Super experience, with the confirmed departures or retirements of four Wallabies, back Kurtley Beale and forwards Dave Dennis, Benn Robinson and Wycliff Palu.
Gibson said lock Mumm was weighing up whether to retire and he couldn’t yet answer whether hooker Polota-Nau would be at the Waratahs next year.
Mumm and Robinson have both also accrued over 100 caps.
However, after a second straight year of large player turnover, Gibson predicted a period of stability.
Asked to assess the Waratahs’ season Gibson said: “I think it’s definitely a success on the amount of new players that we introduced to the team, particularly the young ones.
“We’ve done well to usher in the new and expose them and we’ll go through a period now for the next two or three years where the team will be very stable.”
Gibson said the second row would be one area he would look to strengthen, along with the back row and trying to find some more X factor backs.
He rued dropped points early in the season against the Brumbies and Rebels and the failure to pick up a bonus point against the Cheetahs.
“What I am proud about is how the boys came back from that difficult start and got ourselves back in contention,” Gibson said.
“Not finishing off and not making the finals is disappointing and leaves a sense of unfulfillment.”
He nominated skills and the set pieces as areas the Tahs could improve in.
Gibson said captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper was outstanding.
He said Israel Folau, who he successfully switched from fullback to outside centre and finished top tryscorer in the competition, was “at times a step above everyone else in the competition around finishing.”
Gibson felt halves Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley steered the side around well.
“There’s some real growth from Nick around his kicking,” Gibson said.
“I think last year he kicked the ball four times the whole year, this year he really has continued to grow in that area.”