The Melbourne Rebels would be the surprise packet of the Super Rugby season and had the potential to make the finals, Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske said after watching his team dismantled 35-14 at AAMI Park on Friday night.
The new-look Rebels were unveiled for the first time this season and showed that they would be a different beast to the teams that won only 12 games in its first three seasons. The Rebels ran in five tries and enforced their defence with such aggression and enthusiasm that it restricted the free-flowing Cheetahs to two tries from rolling mauls.
Drotske, who has seen his team now lose two from three games, said the Rebels would be "one of the surprise teams this year, definitely".
"They play with a lot of intensity, their breakdown is really good, they get quick ball and the way they attack is something special so definitely I think they can be positive for their season, there's no doubt about that."
When asked if the Rebels could repeat the efforts of the Cheetahs, who made the finals for the first time last year, Drotske said: "if they play the way they played tonight, obviously it's a long season (but) of course they can do it this year".
Cheetahs skipper Adriaan Strauss agreed that the Rebels were a noticeably better team.
"The Rebels are definitely a much improved side this year," Strauss said.
"We weren't great on the day but if you look at the scoreboard they could have had another try or so the scoreboard actually favours us in a way. We didn't pose any threat in attack so it was quality side we played tonight."
However, Strauss was less complimentary about his team's performance.
"We didn't pose any threat on attack, there was no constructive rugby particularly in the firist half ... their attack was good, they held us quite nicely on defence so we need to give them credit but we weren't good on the day," Strauss said.
Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham said the team's focus, with the next game against the Western Force on Saturday, was to "keep our feet on the ground".
"There's still a lot to work on but it's great to get the bonus point," he said.
"The boys did their job and that's what we asked them to do ... the positive for us to take out of that is that we kept out composure under a lot of heat in that second half and kept playing attacking football."
The story Impressive Melbourne Rebels attack 'something special', says Cheetahs coach first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.