For the first time since 2012 the Waratahs have gone winless on a South African tour, going down to the Sharks 37-14.
An Israel Folau double provided the highlights in a hard-fought Waratahs performance, though the side was plagued by the issues that cost them against the Lions, as a 27-point effort from Sharks replacement flyhalf Curwin Bosch made them pay.
A 28 missed tackle count and the wrong side of a 11-6 penalty count did little to assuage the concerns the side was adamant it had addressed pre-game, with skill errors twisting the knife in Durban.
The Sharks took just two minutes to get on the board, through number eight Tera Mtembu, taking advantage of a slick attacking chain and Bosch had his first points in the eighth minute, after captain Pat Lambie went off with a back concern.
Things went from bad to worse for the Waratahs, a man down as well as eight points in arrears with flanker Jack Dempsey sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle.
A desperate Waratahs attack searched for a gap in the Sharks’ defence but was unable to make much progress.
A Nick Phipps pass slipped past the fingertips of its target and turned into a Bosch intercept try in the final minute of Dempsey’s exile, the replacement flyhalf lighting up Kings Park.
Fortune swung the Waratahs’ way in the 29th minute, with a Bryce Hegarty chip bouncing in the perfect spot for Folau to cross and reduce the gap to 11 points, before Bosch added two more three-pointers.
Seventeen points down, the Waratahs tried to keep play alive after the half-time buzzer, but all they got for their efforts was a second intercept try, this time to Kobus Van Wyk and a 31-7 half-time deficit.
Those two runaway tries hurt NSW as much as anything else, leaving them chasing from the outset.
"They really hurt the morale of the team," captain Michael Hooper said.
"You're up the other end and then you have to run back under the sticks. It's tough to take."
Folau’s second came in the 43rd minute, giving the Waratahs a sniff of hope, but Bosch’s boot kept them at an arm’s length in a low-scoring second stanza.
Bosch scored the only Sharks points of the second half, with two penalties to the Waratahs’ one converted try as they ran out comfortable winners.
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson felt his side had improved on an effort in Johannesburg, where they leaked 55 points.
"I really felt that our defence was more attacking - a lot more line speed, putting a lot more pressure on the Sharks, particualrly in the second half holding them scoreless in terms of tries," he said.
"We really came unstuck in those first few minutes where right from the kick-off, we couldn’t exit our own area, we gave away a lineout and found ourselves seven points down."
Hooper said he was proud of the team's grit to hang in there, but admitted there was more to do.
"(It was) pleasing to see the fight in our team on our second week over here," he said.
"There’s a lot to work with in this group - there’s a bunch of guys willing to work hard.
"I can never get down on our effort, that was there for the full game, it’s just getting our roles better individually and being able to pick off tough and top teams like we’ve faced over here so far."
Rio Olympian Cam Clark made his Waratahs debut, coming on in the second half for Irae Simone, showing some solid signs.
The Waratahs take on the Brumbies in Sydney this weekend, in a match that shapes as critical.
Tries: Mtembu, Bosch, Van Wyk
Cons: Bosch 2
Pens: Bosch 6
Tries: Folau 2
Cons: Robinson 2:
Yellow Cards: Dempsey (11’)