The Waratahs have stumbled at their first South African hurdle, in a 55-36 loss to the Lions on Sunday.
This Johannesburg clash couldn’t have been more further removed from last week’s Allianz Stadium durge against the Western Force, with seven tries in the opening half and 13 all up for the game.
The Lions drew first blood through captain Warren Whiteley in the fourth minute, but the Waratahs had a quick reply through Rob Horne who finished off a superb Andrew Kellaway burst.
A Reece Robinson spear tackle put the Waratahs on the back foot, down a man just 10 minutes into the clash, and the Lions were keen to capitalise.
Ruan Ackermann gave the Lions their second rolling maul try in the opening 15 minutes and opened up a lead for the home side as Robinson sat watching on on the sideline.
Michael Hooper evened things up, finishing off the Waratahs’ first multi-phase play of the afternoon.
It took just three minutes Lions centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg to reply and Andries Coetzee pounced on a Matt Lucas mistake to score just another three minutes after that.
A yellow card for tighthead prop Sekope Kepu, his second in as many weeks, left the Waratahs at 14 again scrumhalf Ross Cronje had a five-pointer a minute later.
Bryce Hegarty finished off his own chip kick, slipping through two Lions defenders to stem the bleeding and reduce the gap to nine points, as attack became the clear priority.
Hooker Tolu Latu kept them in the game defensively, inflicting damage at the breakdown for the second game, but 29 missed tackles hurt the Waratahs as the Lions took control.
It was a relative age before the first score in the second half, a 50th-minute Elton Jantjies drop goal, but that opened the floodgates, with van Rensburg finishing off a textbook one-two punch less than a minute later.
The Waratahs had their own one-man advantage from the 57th minute, with Lions lock Franco Mostert sent to the bin, and Dave McDuling added to their score after a pick-and-drive.
Momentum began to swing violently away from the visitors after that, a try to Sylvian Mahuza stretching the margin to 19 with 15 minutes to go and the Lions starting to dominate across the park.
Lions reserve hooker Malcolm Marx crossed in the 77th minute giving his side the bonus point and what was in the end a comprehensive victory.
Kellaway put Israel Folau into space for one final highlight after full-time for the Waratahs, but it was little consolation for NSW.
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson admitted the missed tackle count was a 'horrific tackle stat',but was most concerned about their inability to stop the Lions' rampaging rolling maul.
"That’s an area of concern for us, in terms of how easily we conceded there," he said.
"The Lions have a very good maul and we’ve got to work out a way to defend a more maul successfully."
The Waratahs hope to welcome back playmaker Bernard Foley next week against the Sharks in Durban, as well as Nick Phipps and Will Skelton who were both late withdrawals from the match.
Tries: Janse vans Rensburg 2, Whiteley, Ackermann, Coetzee, Conje, Marx, Mahuza
Cons: Jantjies 6
Yellow card: Mostert (57’)
Tries: Horne, Hooper, Hegarty, McDuling, Folau
Cons: Robinson 3, Hegarty
Yellow cards: Robinson (10’), Kepu (32’)