Cheetahs coach Franco Smith during the Cheetahs press conference at Toyota Stadium on September 3, 2019, in Bloemfontein. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/FRIKKIE KAPP
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith during the Cheetahs press conference at Toyota Stadium on September 3, 2019, in Bloemfontein. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/FRIKKIE KAPP

Put your nerves aside and embrace the occasion — after all‚ outgoing Free State Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has told his players they have been preparing for the Currie Cup final from the start and now is not the time to get jittery.

His team‚ who topped the points table‚ square off against the Golden Lions in Bloemfontein on Saturday and will be desperate to give the coach a proper send-off.

“If you don’t work from the start as if you are going to play in the World Cup final you are never going to be the best you can be. This is a Currie Cup final and players’ dreams aren’t just from game to game but you play for the big reward‚” Smith said.

“My motivation to the players is not [to] be nervous in a final. You work every day as if you are preparing for a final, irrespective what game you’re preparing for.”

Smith says teams largely need to tap into what has worked for them in their journey to the final.

“Each game brings its own challenges. It is not like a final is vastly different. I’ve been to a lot of finals. The recipe for both teams really is not to deviate too much. There are certain things that you have to do slightly differently, but the way I see it you prepare for a final from day one.”

Smith will be demanding a sustained effort from his troops.

“There has been a lot of progress but I don’t think we’ve delivered an 80-minute effort yet. We are still striving for that. It is a lot better than seven months ago when we started.”

He has a lot of respect for the Lions but recognises that they may be in a different stage of their development as a team.

“They are a younger group and they are only improving. They have fresh faces who emerged on the scene and they are not the final product yet. The final will be a rich experience for them. They will be excited by the prospect of showcasing their skill set. As a whole the Lions will play a lot better.”

Later in 2019 Smith will depart for Italy where he will become the head coach. He is satisfied with the progress the Cheetahs have made under his guiding hand.

“I’ve done what I could. There is always something extra you could have done. I think it is for others to judge whether I got everything out of this group.

“From a coaching perspective I feel that I used every minute that I could. I’m also talking about using that in the 80th minute in the last match of the season. I think the team is in a good space. We are definitely a lot better than we were before we went into the last Pro 14. I’m satisfied.”


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