Cape Town - Outgoing coach Franco Smith said that the Free State Cheetahs' Currie Cup title is the "perfect present" after they defeated the Golden Lions in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The 47-year-old will head back to Italy after the Rugby World Cup to take up an assistant coaching job with the country's national team.
"We started building again last year after several players left, and there is currently a dream at the union to win the Currie Cup and PRO14 in one season. The players worked very hard for this and all credit to them," said Smith.
"What a great present from the players tonight, they all worked hard and all credit to them."
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Smith stated that he was delighted after his team survived a strong second-half fightback from the Golden Lions in front of 38 000 fans at the Toyota Stadium.
"It is always an excellent feeling and real privilege to win the Currie Cup," he said.
"This is the flagship tournament in South African rugby, and I hope it stays that way. #CurrieCupReloaded was a fantastic initiative this season, and it was great that the tournament was so competitive. It is a real privilege to finish as the champions."
Of the Cheetahs' performance in the final, Smith said: "It was an excellent first half, but we ended up fighting to stay in the game. But I am very proud of the guys for hanging in for the win."
This was the Free State Cheetahs' first Currie Cup title since 2016.
Smith will hand over the reins to Hawies Fourie, who will take charge when the PRO14 gets underway at the end of the month.