Drotske: Patience was key for Cheetahs

The patience shown by the Cheetahs in face of the Southern Kings’ sterling defence made all the difference as the Free State franchise registered an important bonus-point 34-22 victory in their Super Rugby match in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

“The Kings played well in the first half and they put a lot of pressure on us,” Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske said, after the home side led for most of the first half before a try on the stroke of halftime by centre Johann Sadie, converted by Elgar Watts, put the visitors 13-12 ahead.

“That try just before halftime brought us back. All credit to my players who stuck to the game plan and showed a lot of quality.

“We spoke at halftime and said there is no way the Kings can defend like that for 80 minutes. Our attack was good in the first half, but all credit to the Kings who played very well.”

Soon after the break, Kings flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis kicked his fifth penalty to put them 15-13 ahead, but the Cheetahs moved up a gear to scored 21 points without reply, sealing the result before a last-minute try from the Kings closed the gap slightly.

The Cheetahs moved to fourth place on the overall log on 45 points, five behind SA conference leaders the Bulls.

“The negative for us is that in the first half we conceded penalties at the breakdown,” Drotske said.

“We said before the game that with Demetri Catrakilis you cannot afford to have bad discipline and we knew that referee Stuart Berry is strict at the breakdown. Other than that I am very happy.”

Kings skipper Luke Watson said his men were disappointed, but would pick themselves up for their remaining four matches in the competition.

“We are disappointed but the Cheetahs are one of the top attacking sides this season,” Watson said.

“They have torn many defences apart and what worried me was that they were always going to ask questions on attack. Compliments to them because they were very well prepared and rehearsed for the match.

“They seemed to attack our blind side quite a bit and they took advantage of that and finished well.”

Watson said his players showed 100 percent commitment and at times they were stretched a bit wide.

“I must say that Demetri’s kicking was phenomenal.”

“He got us into a good position but that try just before half-time changed the nature of the game. If we had gone into he tunnel two minutes earlier it would have been a different game in the second half.

“When you are playing catch-up rugby and throwing caution to the wind there are always going to be chances that go begging.”

After 12 games, the Kings are 10 points behind the next South African sides in the SA conference – Stormers on 34 from 12 games and the Sharks on 34 from 13 – and will need to pick up a few wins to avoid ending bottom and getting involved in a promotion-relegation game.

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