Waratahs send SOS ahead of South Africa tour
Wallaby prop Tom Robertson has been rushed straight back into the NSW squad for their two-week tour of South Africa as the Waratahs desperately look for a miracle cure to save their season after yet another self-inflicted defeat.
Robertson hasn't played for six months after injuring his knee in Argentina while on international duties last year and supposed to ease his way back through club rugby but these are desperate times for the Waratahs so he's answered the call.
Not only has Saturday's loss to the Sharks seen the Waratahs drop out of the top eight but a mounting casualty toll has left them facing an uphill battle to stop the season from descending into chaos with two tough matches away to the Bulls and Lions coming up.
"We've got a job to do now, go over there and get two win, no qualms about it," hooker Damien Fitzpatrick said.
The Waratahs have a poor record playing at high-altitude in South Africa and if they're going to turn things around they'll have to do it without several key players, including Israel Folau, whose code of conduct hearing will take place in Sydney next weekend.
Blindside flanker Jack Dempsey, hooker Tolu Latu and prop Rory O'Connor have all been ruled out because of injury while second rower Jed Holloway missed Sunday's morning flight to Johannesburg after being sent off for a reckless act of stupidity against the Sharks, elbowing an opponent in the head to earn himself an appearance at the SANZAAR judiciary.
Ned Hanigan and Will Miller are both returning from injury while Hugh Sinclair, Ryan McAuley, Cody Walker and Mack Mason were all added to a squad that's been left battered and bruised by the Sharks but still clinging to hope.
"We're not dead in the water yet, there is still a heap to go," skipper Michael Hooper said.
"Aussie teams have done well over in Africa this year and we've got so much opportunity and potential there to go and play some good rugby"
Strong words but the immediate problem the Waratahs face is trying to find a way to start scoring tries after managing just 26 from nine games this campaign.
That's the same number Taqele Naiyaravoro (15) and Folau (11) contributed by themselves in last year's regular season but with neither man now playing for the Tahs, no-one else has stepped up to fill the void.
"We acknowledge that," NSW coach Daryl Gibson said.
"We're certainly putting ourselves in position to score tries, but we're just not capitalising on those critical moments executing that stuff and when you're short on try scoring that's going to hurt you."
The Waratahs' longer term goal is more worrying. What should have been a night to savour with the first Super Rugby match at Bankwest Stadium turned into an embarrassment for the code after a low turnout.
Just days after more than 29,000 fans packed out the stadium for the first NRL match at the venue, two thirds of the seats were vacant for rugby's first venture into Sydney's most populated area.
The numbers have not been much better at their other 'home' matches this season, which have been spread between the SCG, Brookvale Oval and Newcastle, and are unlikely to improve soon unless the Waratahs can start winning on the field.