Waratahs 'stay in fight' to enter Super Rugby quarter-finals

Mark Nawaqanitawase (C) scored two tries for a resurgent NSW Waratahs
Mark Nawaqanitawase (C) scored two tries for a resurgent NSW Waratahs

NSW Waratahs coach Darren Coleman says his team have learned to "stay in the fight" after a late-season surge ensured an appearance in the Super Rugby Pacific quarter-finals.

The Sydney-based club overcame the threat from Fijian Drua 32-18 on Saturday to make it four straight wins for the first time since 2018, with Wallaby Mark Nawaqanitawase bagging two tries.

The victory propelled them to sixth on the ladder after round 13, guaranteeing they will play in the eight-team final series with the ninth-placed club, Otago Highlanders, unable to catch up with two games left.

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It has been a remarkable turnaround for Coleman's side, who were in a "hole of confidence and form" after winning just one of their first six matches but are now unbeaten since crashing 55-21 to the Auckland Blues in round nine.

"There's definitely some things we could have done a little better around our breakdown or a couple of kicks that didn't go out, but we just stayed in the fight and the effort was good throughout," said Coleman.

"We're not there yet, but we're getting to a point where we're relatively consistent and not too many things are fazing us."

Winger Nawaqanitawase, who made his Wallabies debut last year, scored twice with young fullback Max Jorgensen instrumental as he too makes a case to be in Eddie Jones' Australian World Cup squad.


Dylan Pietsch, Langi Gleeson and Mahe Vailanu also dotted down to leave the Fijians in 10th place on the 12-team ladder.

They can still make the finals, with a must-win home clash next week against bottom-placed Moana Pasifika.

The 'Tah's travel to Christchurch to play reigning champions Canterbury Crusaders, which Coleman said would be a real test of how far they have come.

"I'm content. I wouldn't say I’m stoked. Obviously the start we had, it takes a while to make up for that," he said of their early-season struggles.

"I know we haven't played many of the top teams again, but we've now set ourselves up to go to Christchurch and really test where we're at, which we're excited about."