Franco Smith says it was an immensely difficult decision to turn down a continued coaching role with the Springboks, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
It was confirmed last week that Smith would be remaining with the Cheetahs in a full-time capacity, despite having received an offer to stay on as part of the Bok coaching staff, under new director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
If Smith accepted, he would have needed to spend extended periods of time closer to the SA Rugby headquarters in Cape Town, and in the end it was one of the factors that influenced his decision.
Smith will now continue to fulfil a frontline coaching role with the Cheetahs as current Pro14 head coach Rory Duncan will be joining the Worcester Warriors at the end of the European season.
‘It was one hell of a decision,’ Smith told SARugbymag.co.za on Thursday. ‘I really wanted to be part of the Bok setup, and I had spoken to Rassie about the move. I did understand the reasoning behind it, and was very seriously considering it.
‘However, I had to also consider my family here [in Bloemfontein], and also being away from home again – as I was for much of last year. With Rory also leaving, I think it is the correct decision to continue my role with the Cheetahs, who I believe must continue to play a very important role in South African rugby.’
Despite the recent struggles of the Boks, which has seen the national team managing just 11 wins from 25 Tests over the past two years, Smith said he was optimistic that the team could make continued improvement and progress.
‘Of course it will be a challenge for those taking over, and in many ways it is a case of starting afresh once again. But I believe that there were improvements made last year, and we saw on attack that the team scored several more tries [than was the case in 2016].
‘I think the team had begun to understand what we wanted to achieve, and the next step was to understand the “how”. There are some good structures already in place, though, and I’m confident that under Rassie, the Boks will be successful, both in achieving results and establishing an effective playing style.’
Having now stepped away from the Boks, Smith said his focus was on ensuring the Cheetahs continued to go from strength to strength.
‘We are only at the start of the Pro14 endeavour, and that’s a flagship competition where we are determined to keep performing. There are also other structures that have been put in place in Free State rugby to ensure we can compete in all tournaments.
‘When I became Cheetahs coach in 2015, we put in place a three-year plan, so I’m hopeful we can realise those goals and that the building blocks are in place to ensure that we strengthen our all-round game.’
Photo: Anne Laing