The NSW Waratahs defiantly maintain they can “absolutely” still win the 2016 Super Rugby title – even if they slump further down the ladder with another setback against the Brumbies.
The Waratahs went back to work on basics on Tuesday, with coach Daryl Gibson placing a heavy emphasis on fundamental handling drills following a bumbling weekend display against the Melbourne Rebels.
The ‘Tahs know they must improve their execution exponentially in Saturday week’s crucial round-seven derby in Sydney or face the grim prospect of falling three wins behind the Australian conference leaders.
“Obviously it’s been a little bit of a concern for us in terms of our handling,” said assistant coach Chris Malone.
“So it’s a really good opportunity this (bye) week to go back to the basics.”
Only twice in Super Rugby’s 20-year history has a team finished outside the top two in the minor premiership and hoisted the trophy.
But the Waratahs are refusing to give up hope of landing a second crown in three seasons despite languishing closer to the bottom of the table than the top one third of the way through the season.
“Obviously you want to be top of your group. History would suggest that’s the best place to be,” Malone said.
“But if you don’t, then no one’s there to say that you can’t be the first team that ever wins it from not being top.
“Having said that, we’re still in a position where we can still finish top of this group.
“Obviously we’ve got some big games coming up and we’re going to have to put a run of games together, but that’s true for many a team that’s won a Super Rugby comp.”
Malone is adamant the Waratahs can turn their season around after a two-from-five start.
“I thought we started to make some really good inroads in terms of our set piece on the weekend and then we just let ourselves down with some execution, particularly from some of the backs,” he said.
“(But) we believe in their skills. That’s why they’re there and, if we see the very best of every one of our players, I’ve got no doubts at all that we’re going to be very competitive and we’re going to be a very hard team to beat.”
Despite the Waratahs’ high turnover in personnel, including the departures of international stars Adam Ashley-Cooper, Jacques Potgieter and Sekope Kepu among others, Maloney won’t hear of talk of a rebuilding year at the Waratahs.
“Footy teams are always going through periods of transition,” he said.
“We’ve still got a lot of footballers. We’ve got a lot of great youth coming through. Another great positive, we’ve seen a lot of that coming through and there’s going to always be some development issues.
“But we still should be making the finals.”