Ockert de Villiers - Sport24
Johannesburg - Newly appointed Cheetahs coach Franco Smith is a man with a plan but supporters should not expect overnight success as he takes charge of the Bloemfontein side in their two remaining Super Rugby matches.
Smith took the reins of a battered and bruised Cheetahs side that suffered 10 defeats so far this year lie at the bottom of the South African Conference.
The former Springbok flyhalf said his first priority would be to rekindle the players’ love and vigour for the game before they face the defending champion Waratahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
“You can only focus on what you can control and the idea this week was to introduce some fresh ideas and to instil some excitement and enthusiasm for the game,” Smith said.
“It is important to remind them that they chose to play this game and the pressure that we are under is nothing compared to that of the Waratahs and the Bulls that are fighting too for the playoffs.”
Smith was part of the Cheetahs coaching and management team who won the Currie Cup in 2005 and 2006, while he coached Treviso to three consecutive Italian championship victories and qualifying the team for the Heineken Cup (European Champions Cup) competition.
Smith said while the Lions used the right tactics in their rout of the Waratahs over the weekend it would be naïve to think his side were in the position to follow their example.
“The Lions have been playing well throughout the year and they’ve come into the competition with confidence off the back of last year’s Currie Cup,” Smith said.
“It is the right formula but it would be naïve to think that I would be able to get the players to follow that approach after only two days working with the players.”
Smith led Shimlas to their first Varsity Cup title this year while he was also involved with school side Grey College over the last nine months.
The two institutions in Bloemfontein have traditionally been a feeder to Cheetahs rugby and Smith used his time there to introduce his coaching philosophy.
Smith said Shimlas’ brand of rugby was an example of what supporters could expect from the Cheetahs during his tenure.
“I coached in Europe for a long time and before that I coached in two Super campaigns and I strive to marry the quality of both hemispheres,” Smith said.
“Everybody wants to see good rugby but a winning culture needs to be created through that and a style that the rugby public can associate with.”
Although Smith would be looking to move away from South Africa’s traditional crash-bash style of rugby, there was no reason to fuse it with a more enterprising style of play.
“The Lions demonstrated that it can be done by improving the players’ skill sets,” he said.
Smith was under no illusions that he had to overcome budgetary constraints which often influenced the union’s player depth.
It is clear Smith would take the lack of player depth as a given and he would instead take a proactive approach to ensure a healthy pipeline from grassroots upwards.
“I believe you need at least 50 players of quality to be competitive in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup to ensure the players remain fresh and creative on the field,” he said.
“To guarantee this you either need a big budget or you have to make an effort with the coaching.
“The plan will be to get many players to a higher level through good coaching to create a bigger pool of talent that would perhaps yield that special player.”
15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Cornal Hendricks, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Tienie Burger, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 BG Uys
Substitutes: 16 Elandre Huggett, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 19 Seven Sykes, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Shaun Venter, 23 Joe Pietersen
15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam
Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Matt Carraro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick
Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Dave Dennis
(captain), 4 Mitchell Chapman, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Hugh Roach, 1 Benn Robinson
Substitutes (two to be omitted): 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Jeremy Tilse,
18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Patrick McCutcheon, 22
Brendan McKibbin, 23 Peter Betham, 24 Jack Dempsey, 25 Jono Lance