Smith 'excited' about Cheetahs form
Johannesburg - Cheetahs coach Franco Smith says he is "excited" about the improvement in his team's fortunes as they opened their Vodacom Super Rugby season with a narrow one-point loss to the Argentine side - the Jaguares - on Friday night.
According to SuperSport.com, despite holding a 24-3 lead after a half hour, the Cheetahs could not keep their more experienced counterparts at bay, and eventually went down fighting by a point when the final whistle sounded.
It was evident that their game management does need work, especially against some very experienced counterparts who clawed their way back from being down to 13 men and conceding 17 points in that time.
Smith, however, doesn't want to focus on the negative, and while he admits his young side have some way to go, he concedes that he is impressed that they could take on such a classy outfit and come close.
Some may well see it as being a bit defeatist, to be happy with a loss, but Smith has a young group of players and he believes they will grow from the experience.
"We want to measure ourselves against the best. It is much better to get better against a side like that that challenges you at every facet than against a side that you dominate against in certain areas and never have to improve against," Smith said of the loss.
"That is the great thing, we were challenged at everything, we were very good in some areas – exceptional in comparison to last year in the Currie Cup – and that excites me. The more experience gained, the more enthusiasm we keep, the better we will become. It is just a start, and we will see how it goes from here."
Smith certainly doesn't want to dwell on the loss, but surprised a bit when he said his team couldn't "have asked for a better start."
"We are a young side, nothing has changed because we scored three tries in the first 25 minutes. We are an inexperienced side, growing and getting better. I said it in the beginning and I will say it with a one-point loss, it is the same thing. The quality of the player out there and the lessons learnt is what we have to work at.
"We never promised from the start that we will beat the Argentinean World Cup team first up. In saying that we couldn’t have asked for a better start, last year the Cheetahs went out and beat the Sharks away from home and the season then fell to pieces. We are going to take it from here."
Smith sees a lot of positives, and small tweaks that he believes will make the Cheetahs stronger.
"Although we still fell off tackles, the scrummaging was better. The way we conducted ourselves, even when we were behind was exceptional. The fight continues and the main things that we need to work on is our reaction to the ball carrier – we got penalised once or twice at the breakdown too often and I think that is important.
"It is an easy thing to rectify and is typical of the beginning of the season. I’m happy to address that and it will be sorted out, the scrums were good though. The positives were definitely more than the negatives in this game.
"We played at a great pace, the one action lasted almost three minutes and it took a lot out of the players, you could see by the way both sides cramped by the end. If we played with this intensity the entire time last year in the Currie Cup things would have been different, but hopefully we can continue down this road. It is one of our objectives, we made the game quick where we can and the players adapted to it. I’m excited that the players could make the step up to Super Rugby."
The Cheetahs host the DHL Stormers at Toyota Park on Saturday, and will face just as stern a test this weekend.
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