Semi-final preparation a breeze after tough 2017: Gibson

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The challenge of winning a semi-final in Johannesburg is nothing compared to the challenges Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson was facing this time last year.

At the end of the 2017 Super Rugby season, the Waratahs had won just four games and finished third in the Australian conference, with a long list of soul searching to come.

Though there’s nothing easy about trying to topple the Lions on their home turf, Gibson said the mountainous assignment of turning a side around after its worst season on record was far bigger.

“The biggest challenge of my career was last year,” he said.

“Coming out of that season with four wins in a season that should've prompted a lot more.

“On a personal level that was very challenging and how we transformed ourselves and turned ourselves around to get to the position we find ourselves in today, it's been a really long turnaround in terms of it started this time last year.

“We were working towards these moments.”

Sitting just two days away from his first semi-final as a coach, Gibson said he viewed it as a reward for those difficult times rather than another obstacle.

“I look at those challenges - these are the benefits of getting ourselves into this position,” he said.

“I don't know I see this as a challenge, I see this as a reward for how...everything's gone from all our team, our staff.

“In a strange way, I don't find it as challenging.

“It's easy to be in charge of a team when it's going well. At the moment, we're very confident, very full of belief and energy's high.

“When a team's like that, it's easy to steer.”

The Waratahs have flown under the radar in 2018, all the way to a semi-final and they’ll have to contend against some more history if they want to play in their second Super Rugby final in five season.

NSW will be the rank outsiders in Johannesburg against the Lions, who inflicted a 29-0 loss on the Waratahs in Sydney in their last meeting but Gibson said they embraced that underdog position.

“We're a team that's improved all year, we really worked our way into this final,” he said.

“We're really determined to get another week in the season and it's a good place to be.

“No one's really giving us much of a chance on Saturday. We strongly believe we can win this game.

“We just need to go out and execute the things that we're planning for and do very well in the physical exchanges.”

The Waratahs take on the Lions on Saturday July 28, kicking off at 3:05pm local, 11:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO.