The Waratahs are running out time to snatch a Super Rugby finals spot but defence coach Steve Tandy is confident it would only take small tweaks to turn their fortunes around.
NSW sit fourth in the Australian conference with a 4-6 record and six rounds to go, including a trip to Johannesburg to take on the inconsistent Lions this weekend.
Where in many years that record might have already put a finals spot out of reach, remarkably, they are just three points behind the conference-leading Rebels and Brumbies.
While both those sides have arguably easier runs home than the Waratahs, Tandy said the closeness of the ladder meant things could quickly change for NSW.
“We’re still really tight and if just put a run of games together you can still bounce up to the top of the conference so it’s up to us,” he said.
“We’re really focused on this weekend to get some points against the Lions then come home to some pretty big games.
“Obviously we’ve got everyone to play, the Reds, Brumbies, and Rebels so a lot of it will still be in our control but we need to start winning games pretty quickly.”
Winning is easier said than done, especially in Johannesburg where they haven’t won since 2009, but Tandy is confident minor improvements are all that’s required to turn around the Waratahs’ fortunes.
““Obviously we made one or two key penalties by sticking to our process and discipline and how we play and make sure we focus on ourselves and hopefully that will look after ourselves,” he said.
“We conceded a couple of cheap tries and we missed some opportunities so there’s plenty in our game that we can tidy up and hopefully if we can find that quickly we can get a result from the weekend.”
Hooker Tolu Latu joined the team in South Africa after missing the first week on tour with a calf injury and Tandy was also confident Michael Wells, who missed the Bulls game with a hamstring issue, would be fit for the Lions clash.
“Tolu has been up and running,” he said.
“He has been doing bits of rehab since he’s come over so we expect he and Michael to be available for the weekend. Michael is going through a process.
‘He’s rehabbing today and he’s running tomorrow so we’re hopefully both will be available for selection on the weekend.”
The Waratahs are still yet to rotate some of their key forwards, including Rob Simmons and Sekope Kepu, both of whom are believed to be required to sit out at least one game as part of the Wallabies’ resting policy.
Tandy said the return of Latu and that of Tom Robertson, who successfully got through a game on his comeback from an ACL injury, would make rotations easier.
“Obviously Tolu had that suspension and then and injury so that takes a lot of experience away and Tom has been unavailable for the majority of the season.
“Harry Johnson-Holmes has come in and done remarkably well and so we’ve got a little bit of depth.
“It’s great to have Tolu back in the mix for selection and Tom will hopefully get plenty of minutes over the coming weeks.”
The Waratahs take on the Lions on Saturday May 11, kicking off at 3:05pm local, 11:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Kayo Sports.