With a host of players leaving the club at the end of 2019, the Waratahs head into this Super Rugby season as (very) unknown quantity.
Wallaroos coach Dwayne Nestor says his team were bullied as the Black Ferns dished up a 47-10 win in Perth to continue their rugby dominance over Australia.
The Wallaroos have never tasted victory against the women’s world No.1 side, with the streak extended to 18.
In the curtain raiser to Saturday’s Wallabies-All Blacks Test at Optus Stadium, the Black Ferns ran in eight tries to two in a dominant display.
“We allowed ourselves to get bullied in the tackle contest – we had way too many balls stripped from us – we didn’t nail our tackles,” a disappointed Nestor said.
“It’s a contact sport – you’ve got to go in and whack someone and we didn’t do it.”
The Australians went into the match with high hopes after sweeping their two-Test series against Japan but they found the Kiwis a big step up.
The Black Ferns dominated the physical contest, while the home side’s lineout struggled throughout the match, losing seven of their own throws.
While the scrum stood up, the Wallaroos’ poor ball security proved costly and limited their ability to build pressure.
New Zealand raced to a 22-0 halftime lead with player of the match No.8 Charmaine McMenamin collecting a double.
They showed off an array of skills with McMenamin’s first coming through a driving maul off a lineout before she finished off a brilliant counter-attack after a poor Wallaroos kick.
Winger Ayesha Leti-I’iga proved a constant threat for the Black Ferns and was rewarded with a 73rd-minute try.
Both of the Wallaroos’ tries came in the second half through gutsy winger Lori Cramer.
Her first was an 80m dash after the ball popped out of the ruck, while credit for the second must be shared with exciting teenaged centre Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea, who managed to get the final pass away in heavy traffic.
Nestor said Cramer’s competitive spirit made her a standout.
“Lori’s a good footy player and she brings a bit of character to the team but, behind that character, is a competitor and you can see that in her commitment to her defensive work,” he said.
Despite Wallaroos skipper Grace Hamilton’s valiant efforts all match, they still have plenty of work to do to close the gap on the world champions before next Saturday’s return clash in Auckland.