Dejected Daryl Gibson admits Waratahs 'pretty low' but he won't quit as coach
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has rejected the suggestion NSW stopped trying when it became clear the finals had slipped beyond their grasp.
Just when fans thought the Waratahs could not sink any lower, they were put to the sword by the Western Force in a 29-point demolition their players will be keen to forget.
Basic skills were absent and players gave the impression they could not wait for an arduous season to come to an end.
"It's fair to say we're pretty low," Gibson said. "It's been a season of lows and to finish off in that manner is incredibly disappointing. Credit to the Force, they played better wet weather rugby and thoroughly deserved their win. They showed a lot of fight and desire.
2017 wil go down in Waratahs history as a season to forget for so many reasons.
In five of the last six matches NSW played, they conceded 40 or more points.
For the first time ever they came away from a South African trip with no points at all, did not beat an overseas side and defeated only one team by more than seven points.
While it will be little consolation, the Waratahs did score more points per game (26.4) than the Brumbies (21), Reds (21.4), Force (20.9) and Rebels (15.7).
The Waratahs finished fourth in the Australian conference – ahead of only the Rebels – and for the second year in a row will not play finals football.
Fans have expressed their anger on social media since the 40-11 defeat, with some saying they cannot bring themselves to watch another game.
Captain Michael Hooper, whose performances across the season have been of the same high standard as other years, said he had learned a lot about leadership after what will go down as the Waratahs' second-worst year on record.
"It was a case of 'I can't believe we're here again'," said Hooper after NSW fell behind 14-3 in the space of 14 minutes. "We just couldn't turn that around for a lot of games this year and when we did find ourselves there, that spiral was a hard one to break, particularly in wet weather rugby.
"I've learnt an absolute truckload. It's unfortunate you have to have a season like this. But within this season, I can say that young players – that 22 to 24 range – will learn a hell of a lot. We won't be back here again.
"The desire after a season like this could not be stronger now. I wish I was going straight into another season and could look at how we could get better straight away and I wish we were playing again to make amends. Can't have another season like that."
Four wins from 15 games does not make for pretty reading and Gibson has taken responsibility for being unable to get the most out of his players.
The Waratahs squad boasts 14 players who have represented the Wallabies but despite this, they have been unable to live up to internal and external expectations.
The worrying thing is NSW were not ravaged by injury like a number of other Super Rugby teams.
Bernard Foley had ongoing concussion problems in the early rounds but aside from that NSW was able to field its best team more often than not.
Gibson can understand why people might question whether he is the right man to coach the Waratahs next season but insists he is 100 per cent committed to the task.
"They're fully entitled to their opinion," Gibson said. "It's been a disappointing year, a tough year, only winning four games. But what I can say is the Waratahs have been here before.
"We've had seasons where we've been low and the following year we've transformed ourselves. It's not impossible and it's a task I'm very passionate about and if I get the privilege and honour to lead the team. We can't have another season like this, that's clear.
"We know the areas we need to fix and we need to go about transforming ourselves and keep to the plan."
- Sydney Morning Herald