Cape Town - The Cheetahs have confirmed that Franco Smith will stay on as head coach until the end of the year before taking the Italian national job.
Smith, who has been head coach of the Cheetahs since 2015, was offered the Italian job last month.
The Cheetahs acknowledged the interest back then, and have decided not to stand in his way.
They will, however, keep using Smith throughout this year's Currie Cup competition and whoever the new coach is will only take over ahead of the 2019/20 PRO14 season.
Smith's replacement will be announced in due course once the post has been advertised.
Whoever does come on board will then work with Smith up until the coach leaves for Italy.
"Franco was offered the opportunity to coach the Italian national side from January 1, 2020," the Cheetahs said in a statement.
"The Board of Directors see this as a great opportunity for Franco and is proud of the fact that so many top coaches have been developed by the Free State Cheetahs.
"Free State Rugby is seen as a breeding ground of opportunity with coaches like Rassie Erasmus, Niel Powell, Jacques Nienaber, Pote Human, Brendan Venter, Rory Duncan, Daan Human, who all started off in the Free State – and in the past, Nelie Smith, Gysie Pienaar and others.
"The Board of Directors is proud of and wishes Franco the best of luck with the opportunity to coach on an international level until the next world cup in 2023.
"In order to ensure a smooth transition, Franco will remain in the position as Head Coach for Currie Cup, where after the new coach will take over the reins for PRO14 later in September.
"The new coach will be part of the coaching structures during Currie Cup to experience the culture.
"After Currie Cup, Franco will stay in the fold as Director of Rugby until the end of November 2019."
The Cheetahs, meanwhile, won eight of their 21 matches in the PRO14 this season to finish sixth in their pool.