SYDNEY (Reuters) - Shoring up a leaky defence while not abandoning their attacking mindset is what the New South Wales Waratahs will endeavour to do to get their Super Rugby season back on track against the Kings on Friday, according to coach Daryl Gibson.
The 2014 champions are languishing in fourth in the five-team Australian conference on eight competition points, having won just two of their seven games this season.
Their only victories have come against fellow Australian sides the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, who are also struggling, while they conceded almost 34 points per match.
"Those inconsistencies and vulnerabilities in our game is something we want to work out and learn from," Gibson said in comments published by Fairfax Media on Monday.
"We need to firmly fix up our defensive qualities, which at the moment are not where they should be."
That lack of defensive starch was most evident in their last game against the Wellington Hurricanes on April 7 with the 2016 champions running in five tries and establishing a 33-7 lead in the first half.
A combination of the Hurricanes temporarily losing track of what they were supposed to be doing and the Waratahs finally switching on ensured the Sydney-based side fought back in the second half before losing 38-28.
At times during that game they ran the Hurricanes off Wellington Regional Stadium.
Their attacking prowess from deep was most evident with fullback Bryce Hegarty threatening every time his team were able to hold onto the ball and spread it wide.
"At different periods... we've showed we can be a very good football team," Gibson said. "We're going to look to... focus on our strengths, which has been that ball-in-hand-type game and making that more consistent and more effective."
Gibson, however, said the closeness of the Australian conference meant that a victory over the Port Elizabeth-based Kings would put them back in contention for the playoffs.
The ACT Brumbies, who play the Hurricanes in Napier earlier on Friday, lead the Australian conference on 17 points. Each of the four conference winners qualify for the playoffs no matter how many points they have.
"The Australian conference is still very open and the focus for us is firmly on ourselves," Gibson added.
"We always knew it was going to be tough. We've been shown where the level is at in terms of where we need to get to."
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)