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Super Rugby round seven
Naka Drotske hails Cheetahs players
ESPN Staff
March 31, 2013
The Cheetahs' winger Raymond Rhule makes a break, Cheetahs v Melbourne Rebels, Super Rugby, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein, March 30, 2013
Raymond Rhule enjoyed another fine game © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Naka Drotske | Raymond Rhule | Riaan Smit
Tournaments/Tours: Super Rugby

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has hailed his jet-lagged players for their ability to perform "outside their comfort zone" in defeating Melbourne Rebels 34-16 on Saturday to claim their fourth consecutive Super Rugby victory.

The Cheetahs stand second in the South African conference, behind the Sharks, and sixth on the consolidated ladder, after dominating possession against the Rebels and pouncing on the hapless visitors' every mistake.

"The conditions weren't ideal for playing running rugby so we were a little bit out of our comfort zone," Drotske said.

"But in the end, all credit to the players who stuck to the game plan and came out on top. I feel that the bonus point for four or more tries is exactly that: a bonus. The guys had jet lag and we needed to start fresh after our success overseas, so I would have been happy with just the victory.

The Cheetahs were playing their first match since returning from their four-game tour of New Zealand and Australia, where they defeated the Highlanders, New South Wales Waratahs and Western Force after copping a hiding by the Chiefs, and Drotske said he had been wary of a letdown against rivals who had suffered a franchise-record 61-7 defeat by the Sharks in the previous round.

"We are definitely happy with the four victories in a row," Drotske said. "It was a good tour abroad, but I was worried we couldn't put it behind us. The Rebels gave away 60 points against the Sharks last week, and when that happens to a team they always come back with a bang. It was tough out there and we maybe could have scored one or two more tries, but I won't be greedy."

Drotske, meanwhile, said the Cheetahs hoped that fly-half Riaan Smit would miss only "two to three weeks" after tearing a hamstring while kicking in the warm-up. "There was a lot of blood around the torn muscle so we will only have clarity on Monday," Drotske said. "Hopefully it is just a grade-one tear, meaning that Riaan will be out for two to three weeks. We will just have to wait and see."

The Cheetahs continued their feelgood story of 2013 against Melbourne Rebels (video available only in Australia)
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