Johannesburg - Free State Cheetahs coach Franco Smith admitted he was stunned by the way his team dismantled the Golden Lions side in their Currie Cup semi-final on Saturday.
According to the SuperSport website, Smith said after the game that while his team had gone through the season unbeaten, and was playing with a lot of confidence, there was little that prepared him for the 55-17 thrashing they delivered to a Lions side that were hoping to defend their title they won last year.
While Smith did admit the team had adopted the mantra of “surprise” the entire week in the lead-up to the game, they had surprised even themselves with the style of rugby, confidence and execution they delivered on the field and now want to go one better and add their first title since 2006 this coming weekend.
The coach was adamant that the performance was probably the “best we’ve played” under his direction and that he hoped it would be replicated in the final this coming weekend.
“If it isn’t the best we’ve played, then it is very close. Firstly all glory to God, that is why we play. Good people make good players and it begins there. Sometimes when things go well you forget that, but when things go well that is where you get your strength,” Smith said after the win.
“And then all credit to the players. We started here with a plan 18 months back and they bought into it, learnt lessons and it was wonderful to see how well they implemented it in the game.
“We spoke about surprises the whole week, we didn’t want to surprise others, we wanted to surprise ourselves. It shows that if you have the right thoughts then anything is possible. So I was very surprised.”
While the team had one more hurdle to overcome against a strong Blue Bulls side this weekend, Smith believed the team hadn’t reached their zenith just yet, and were still on an upward curve.
“It came quickly, we started last year and a lot of people had high expectations. With that first Bulls game here, with the Currie Cup we managed to empty the stadium. So it was a mission to get those fans back,” he added.
“There is still a lot of hard work ahead and this is what makes this group so unique. They all want to achieve. That is what we are striving towards.
“It is one thing to be successful and another to be significant. That is what we all want to see in South Africa - significance.
“We want to bring joy to everyone in South Africa, so there is a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
The only injury problem in the side currently is a cartilage injury to prop Ox Nche, something Smith reckons isn’t too serious and “can be sorted out in a week”.
Either way, it will probably take something spectacular to keep the 23 players from lining up again on Saturday and looking to hit the same form.
If they do, the title is likely to stay in Bloemfontein after a season of spectacular rugby that has deservedly seen them get to this point.
Read the story on SuperSport