Bloemfontein - Free State Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has praised his team for their solid defensive effort, which led to a 22-7 victory over the Blue Bulls which booked a place in this year's Currie Cup semi-finals.
"For us it is great that we are in the semi-finals," Drotske said after the game in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
"I am very proud of the guys, especially the effort they put in on defence.
"We tackled the Bulls back and were solid around the break downs. We also managed to counter their driving mauls pretty [well], something we worked on [for] the last couple of weeks."
Drotske's side booked their spot and despite finishing third after the round-robin stage, a home final is still within reach.
The Cheetahs face the Sharks at Kings Park in Durban next weekend, while Western Province will host the Golden Lions at Newlands in Cape Town.
Should the Lions beat Province and the Cheetahs secure a win over the Sharks, the Free State outfit will play the final on home turf in Bloemfontein.
While Drotske was happy with the team's overall performance, two areas of concerns were the Cheetahs' scrums and poor discipline.
Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen was penalised on numerous occasions by referee Marius Jonker in the scrums, and replacement prop Schalk van der Merwe received a red card for a dangerous tackle.
"Coenie is a Springbok prop and part of a Springbok front row with Adriaan Strauss and Trevor Nyakane there," Drotske said of Oosthuizen's game.
"We will work through the video of the scrums and communicate with Marius Jonker on what went wrong there.
"But I am not to worried. These are all things that can be rectified during the week."
The Cheetahs, however, gave a defensive performance worthy of a spot in the semi-finals, stopping the visitors on their own goal-line a number of times.
In contrast, the Cheetahs scored three times, including a superb interception by flyhalf Elgar Watts and a spectacular individual try by hooker Adriaan Strauss.
Bulls coach Pine Pienaar admitted his side had a mountain to climb in order to qualify for the knockout stages.
The Bulls needed to beat the Cheetahs with a bonus point and a points difference of at least eight, while ensuring the hosts did not earn a single point from the game.
"It was a huge challenge from the get-go," Pienaar said.
"We knew that we needed four tries and we played for that. We kicked out every penalty instead of taking shots at goal.
"The victory would have been nice, but in the end it would have meant nothing if we didn't have the four tries. Credit must go to the Cheetahs.
"They defended well and put us under huge pressure at the break down area. At the end of the day they deserved to win."
Pienaar added that all was not lost for the Pretoria side and plenty of positives could still be taken from their season.
"We will never use the absence of star players as an excuse," Pienaar said.
"This squad is one that can still be great. We only lost two players, Francois Venter and Jean Cook, to the Cheetahs for next year so the core of the team will remain the same.
"If we develop these players and look after them, they can become a solid unit in the future."