Smith 'excited' at early coaching start
Johannesburg - Incoming Cheetahs coach Franco Smith says he is “excited” at the prospect of starting his tenure with the franchise early.
According to supersport.com, the Cheetahs granted outgoing coach Naka Drotske an early release from his contract on Tuesday, meaning next weekend’s game against the DHL Stormers will be his last in charge.
Smith will take over for the last two games of the season – which includes a trip to Loftus to face the Vodacom Bulls - before being in charge for the Absa Currie Cup season and next year’s Vodacom Super Rugby season.
And while Smith has been slowly working his way into the job – he still coaches at all levels at Grey College and at Shimlas in his “spare” time – the opportunity to take charge of the Cheetahs has been thrust upon him earlier than expected.
“I’m excited,” he told supersport.com, “my hands are itching to start, and while I know there is a risk involved taking over at the end of the season, I might just as well start now.
“I can understand why Naka has asked to leave early, and it is the end of an era. I wish him well.”
On Tuesday evening the Cheetahs released a statement saying that Os du Randt and Drotske had been granted an early release from their contract. Du Randt will be heading to Japan to take up an opportunity with Toyota Verblitz while Drotske is “retiring” after eight years as coach of the franchise.
“Os du Randt has accepted a very exciting opportunity to coach abroad and to be an ambassador for the Toyota Cheetahs. He will leave the Toyota Cheetahs during the first week of June. A full media conference is scheduled for the 23rd of May in the Free State Stadium where details of his departure will be discussed,” the statement read.
“Because of changes surrounding Os du Rand’s position and early departure, Naka Drotske, Head Coach of the Toyota Cheetahs requested to be released from his contract after the Stormers game on 30 May. Drotske insisted that he wants to step down when Os leaves, instead of continuing with the tournament without his complete coaching team.
“During the 2014 Super Rugby competition it was decided that Griqua players and Hawies Fourie could be released early to help the Griquas qualify for the 2014 Currie Cup. The lack of depth lead to below standard results which Drotske felt he had to take blame for. The Toyota Cheetahs has full understanding for his position and agreed to his request.
“Franco Smith and his coaching staff will take the reins for the remainder of the Super Rugby matches against the Waratahs and the Bulls. It would be a good opportunity for the new coaching staff to start working with the players. Hawies Fourie will stay on until the end of the Super Rugby competition, unless he comes to a different agreement with Franco Smith, from where he will re-join the Griquas as head coach.”
In the meantime Smith revealed to supersport.com that his assistant coach Corniel van Zyl, who will take charge of the forwards, will fly back from Italy early this weekend, and is likely to join the team by Monday.
Smith says he is happy Fourie is staying on until the end of the season.
“Hawies has a lot of experience and I’m happy he is staying and that he wants to stay. Of course he will return to Griquas for the Currie Cup.”
Smith has been “immersing” himself in Cheetahs rugby again, and this is why he chose to be involved at both Grey and Shimlas despite a bigger job awaiting him.
“I decided to invest in junior rugby and immerse myself in the culture and to get to know the players. I want to continue this as far as the new job allows me to. I’ve already identified some coaches who think in the same way as me, so that we all coach in the same direction going forward.”
While Smith is unlikely to achieve major change in the last two weeks of Super Rugby, he will use it as a basis for the four years he will take charge of the team for and hopefully end the season on a positive note.
“I need to chat to the players and talk to them about setting goals. We need to set a higher standard for ourselves. I want us to close off the season on a positive note, and that the players get to know me and I them, and they understand what I want from them.”
Smith then has seven weeks before the start of the Currie Cup – the same he had for the Varsity Cup to train Shimlas – where he will get more chance to implement his coaching style.
And start moving the Cheetahs forward to the vision he has.