The NSW Waratahs will back their attacking firepower to dig them out of a deep hole after yet another home defeat left the 2014 champions’ Super Rugby season on a knife edge.
The Waratahs probably need to win eight of their last nine games to scrape into the finals after falling to 13th on the ladder and two wins behind the Brumbies following Saturday night’s 26-20 loss to Australia’s conference leaders.
But with a game in hand on the Brumbies, who host the in-form Crusaders next round, the Waratahs are refusing to panic ahead of a trip to Perth to face bogy side the Western Force before a testing match in Cape Town against the Stormers.
“It’s a long year. A lot of teams have harder legs at the end of their year than we have had at our start,” said halfback Nick Phipps.
“We have had a few tough games and let ourselves down in a couple but they’re all winnable games (to come).
“We have to keep persisting at it. We are a strong group. Nothing is going to deter us from our goal.”
Coach Daryl Gibson believes his backline is taking shape following Israel Folau’s successful transition to the centres partnering playmaker Kurtley Beale outside fellow Wallabies Phipps and Bernard Foley.
And he is banking on it clicking into top gear to keep the Tahs’ fading title hopes flickering.
“We’re making plenty of line breaks. We’ve got firepower. That’s one thing we do have, a good asset of ours,” he said.
“It’s been a positive the whole year – the types of tries that we’re scoring are very good.
“Clearly the area of growth is in other areas that we need to fix up.”
The Waratahs’ chief concern remains the wobbly set pieces and breakdown.
If they can’t secure possession, they can’t score tries and win games no matter who’s in the backline.
“At times we’re inconsistent with our play and that prevents us from really capitalising on those opportunities,” Gibson said.
“Lineout, scrum, too much dropped ball. Just little errors, giving away soft penalties, stuff that’s hurting the team from really playing really well and putting pressure on the other team.”
Australian rugby fans can be famously fickle and losing coaches – especially foreign ones – can quickly become easy targets, but Kiwi Gibson is “not at all” feeling any pressure.
“To me, it’s irrelevant (being a New Zealander),” he bristled.
“If you’re questioning my loyalty and commitment to the team … I am here to coach the Waratahs and I’m very, very privileged and honoured to do that.