Preparing to play the Chiefs on Friday in the first of six games in the Melbourne Super Round, the Waratahs believe they have the legs to be more competitive than they were in 2021.
Six games are to be played across the weekend in the Victorian capital, a historic first for Super Rugby.
The Waratahs have won five games from eight in 2022 to sit in fifth place, one point ahead of the Chiefs.
But with the Chiefs missing All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, centre Anton Lienert-Brown and first five-eighths Josh Ioane, and halfback Brad Weber touch and go, the Waratahs smell an opportunity to ram home the improvement they have achieved.
Given the way they leaked points in the Super Rugby Tasman series in 2021, it's no surprise there has been a concentration on their defence.
The average points the Waratahs gave up last year were 53 a game which included eight tries a game.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that, in their pre-season, the attention paid to rectifying the side's defence occupied 75 per cent of their time. The result has been a lift from an 81 per cent tackle effectiveness to 89 so far this year, while the points they have conceded are down to 20.3 per game.
First season coach Darren Coleman said defence had been their mantra.
"If we can build our team on defence and toughness, you are in there with a fighting chance," he told the SMH.
Coleman said he had been in touch with Wallabies coach and former Chiefs coach Dave Rennie to get an insight into the challenge New Zealand teams will provide.
"He has been a great sounding board for me. I am a first-year having a crack at this, and it's my first shot having a go at the Kiwis, so I wanted to bounce some ideas off him and figure out how we are going to try and attack these fellas. It was helpful," he said.
Coleman said he had been pleased with the types of quick response tries the Waratahs scored in their last outing against the Force because that was the sort of play needed to score the four to six tries required to beat New Zealand teams.
"You have to score tries, 100 per cent. You are not going to beat the Kiwis with penalty goals and mauls," he said.