Cheetahs set to mount strong play offs challenge

Cheetahs’ coach Naka Drotske says that his team are now in a good position to challenge for the Super Rugby play offs for the first time in their history.

The Cheetahs beat the Sharks 6-12 in Durban which temporarily made them South African Conference leaders but the Bulls bonus point victory over the Southern Kings moved them to the top of the conference by one point.

The Cheetahs are now second in the SA Super Rugby conference but crucially they have a gauranteed eight points ahead of them as they have yet to have a bye and they have their tour behind them while their conference rivals the Stormers and Sharks still have to travel.

A late Willie le Roux try, and a first half score by Raymond Rhule led the Free Staters to a 12-6 win at a wet and cold Kings Park, where two Patrick Lambie penalties either side of the interval had kept the hosts in the game.

The result temporarily moved the visitors to the top of the domestic conference and third overall, but they had slipped to sixth on the combined standings by the end of the evening, after the Bulls’ 34-0 triumph over the Kings in Port Elizabeth.

“I thought if we wanted to compete in the conference and end first, then winning here will be crucial,” Drotske said after the win, only the third ever for the Cheetahs on the east coast.

“It was said before the last two weeks we needed to win one of the two, either against the Bulls in Pretoria or here in Durban and it happened.

“So it’s a good position to be in, but there’s still a long way to go.”

The men from Bloemfontein, who have now won six of their last seven matches, have never qualified for the Super Rugby play-offs, with their best position coming in 1997 when they finished seventh in a 12-team format.

“We knew before the season it’s going to be tough, starting with the Sharks in Bloem and then the Chiefs, two teams that played in the final last year,” he said.

“We were under a lot of pressure, especially after we lost that second game 45-3 [in Hamilton], but the players pulled it back and we won three on tour.

“I guess when you start winning it becomes a habit.”

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