SOME may say his philosophy amounts to nothing more than airy-fairy, pie in the sky but new Free State Currie Cup coach Franco Smith is determined to restore the team to its traditional free-running roots.

Smith was installed as the Currie Cup coach earlier this week and replaces Rory Duncan, who will take the job of director of rugby at the union.

Smith, a Springbok in nine Tests from 1997 to 1999 wants to reacquaint the players with the ball-in-hand approach that has often made Free State such difficult opponents, particularly in the amateur era.

Detractors will point to the fact that such an approach only yielded a solitary Currie Cup title in 1976 before the uberpragmatist Rassie Erasmus restored them to the winners circle, albeit sans stylistic merit, in the mid-1990s.

Having just returned from Europe, Smith was part of that coaching staff, so he should be able to find a middle ground between wish list and what is practically possible.

"The major objective is for Free State to play a brand of rugby that people enjoy," he said on Tuesday. "You want to play winning rugby, attractive rugby and the kind of rugby people can associate with."

Saying it is one thing, but Smith believes he also has the tools to back it up: "To do that you have to equip the players. Often in professional rugby the pressure tends to swallow creativity but it will be my objective to get the players to play to their potential.

"The Cheetahs won the Currie Cup two years in a row when I was here and the stadium was full and it was wonderful.

"I owe it to everybody involved in Free State rugby. I want to make the players better, that is the main objective."

His success with the Shimlas this year in coaching the university team to the Varsity Cup crown means nobody can accuse him of sacrificing substance over style. He can see the obvious benefits in continuity that the Varsity Cup triumph will bring for Free State.

"The fact that the Shimlas did well is wonderful. It brings belief and we would want to take some of that energy forward. There are young guys who, with their enthusiasm and confidence, can play at a higher level. Over the last while there has been a lot of pressure on the senior players."

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