A FOUR-WEEK rest has morphed into a month of soul-searching for the Waratahs after veteran forward Wycliff Palu pleaded with his teammates to turn the microscopes on themselves after the side's 10th loss this season.
A desperately frustrated Palu, who played his first full game of the season against the Hurricanes on Saturday night, made the appeal as the team stood in a huddle moments after the bell sounded on the Waratahs' sixth straight loss.
''I just said [that] individually we have just got to change,'' the Test No.8 said. ''I think as a team we are not going too bad, just individual errors cost us at crucial times.
''Including myself, we have to go back and probably change what we are doing, whether it is preparation-wise or whatever it is. If we don't change, we are just going to keep doing the same thing.''
The message hit home for Palu's Wallabies teammate Adam Ashley-Cooper, who said he was finding it difficult to hold his head up after the 21-point loss.
''Drew [Mitchell] said a few things, Benny [Robinson] said a few things and 'Cliffy' then said we need to change something,'' Ashley-Cooper said.
''Whatever we do in our preparation, we need to change. That was a really good point from him, reaching out to the group and asking them to change something in their preparation that's going to make a difference … so when we come back and have our two last games, there's something there.''
Both men, senior squad members and experienced Test players, were at a loss to explain why the Waratahs' hard work in training was not paying off on the field.
''We are applying ourselves, there is a great deal of effort,'' Ashley-Cooper said. ''The preparation is great, the effort out on the field you can see is there. It is the execution, we are letting ourselves down with skill-based errors and that's not good enough at this level.''
Palu also came down hard on their execution of the basics.
''I think the way we attack we are pretty positive,'' he said. ''I feel we are playing good rugby, but again, simple dropped passes and things like that, and our defence in the last two weeks hasn't been up to it. In the past that was one of our strengths.''
While the break gives the players breathing space and time to think, coach Michael Foley and other Waratahs officials appear to be staring at month-long auditions for their jobs.
Waratahs Rugby chairman Edwin Zemancheff said yesterday the board would use the Test break and round-15 bye to assess the performance of all aspects of the club and its business and sporting operations.
The board has issued no official summonses to Foley or chief executive Jason Allen yet, but details are expected in the coming week.
At least for the next few weeks there is no threat of administrative fallout affecting the Waratahs' performance. For the 11 players in the Wallabies squad there exist opportunities. For the others, at the least, there is a circuit-breaker.
Foley conceded after the game on Saturday night that sustained speculation about his own job and the squad's woes had seeped into the side's psyche after a disastrous tour to South Africa.
''I think undoubtedly there are certain things that would shift people's thoughts,'' he said.
''I think it probably happens more in the moment rather than going into the game - maybe a decision is made on the back of some of that pressure … it's hard to know.
''There's definitely been a fair bit of [scrutiny]. Coming back from South Africa without a win was extremely frustrating for us and some of the commentary around the team, the team accepts the criticism well and truly, but [some of it] probably is a little bit distracting.''