The Waratahs were guilty of getting ahead of themselves in a surprise defeat to the Brumbies on Saturday night, coach Daryl Gibson says.
NSW suffered a shock 40-31 loss to the Brumbies in the final regular season round, a timely reminder of the need to be switched onto the immediate task every week.
No matter the result on Saturday night, the Waratahs could not miss the finals and Gibson said his team already seemed to have half a mind on its quarter-final mission.
“It probably shows us that if we don't turn up with the right attitude and intent, you're going to get beat,” he said.
“What you saw tonight was a team that was not focused on the job at hand and getting ahead of itself in terms of already being in next week.
“As a coach, that's disappointing because it's my responsibility to ensure we're focused on the job at hand.
“Not taking away anything from the Brumbies, I thought they were excellent, scored some good tries. Thoroughly deserved the victory tonight.”
Defence has been a consistent focus for the Waratahs and Gibson criticised some ‘soft efforts’ from his players against the Brumbies.
“I think there's some soft efforts there,” he said.
“We'll look at some of that tape and be disappointed with some of the effort there, particularly in the tackle and then post the tackle in terms of our urgency, to find our line again.
“Plenty to work on but I think a lot of that work's between our ears.”
Waratahs acting captain Bernard Foley said it was up to the players to turn things around in the next week, with no margin for error in the sudden-death playoff system.
“I think it's on us, this whole week's on us,” he said.
“When we get it right, attack and defence, we can beat anyone. We've just got to get it right and come with the right attitude next week and adjust the fixes that we learned tonight.”
The Waratahs face a nervous wait to see where they finish on the Super Rugby log and who their quarter-final opponent will be.
Should the Lions beat the Bulls in Johannesburg, the Waratahs will slip to third and host the Highlanders in week one.
If the Bulls get up, the Waratahs will finish second and will likely host the Jaguares, pending the result of the Sharks vs Jaguares encounter that wraps up the regular season.
Whoever they play, Gibson said they would almost definitely be without usual skipper Michael Hooper for their quarter-final.
Hooper has been back running this week and was delivering water and messages on Saturday night but is not quite ready a Super Rugby return.
Outside of Hooper in the casualty stakes, centre Kurtley Beale was taken off early after a illness-affected week, while Cam Clark is also under an injury cloud with a possible hip injury.