Cheetahs coach Franco Smith says his young team is staying positive despite a rocky start to their Pro14 campaign. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Cheetahs, who lost a plethora of experienced players before the season started, have lost each of their three opening matches to Munster, Ospreys and the Glasgow Warriors.
However, Smith, who replaced Rory Duncan as head coach this season, says there were times when his inexperienced team showed that they have the potential to compete with top sides.
‘It is a bit of an uphill challenge. We must stay realistic. The results have not really reflected what happened in the game. If you simply look at the scoreline you will be a bit disappointed,’ he told SARugbymag.co.za.
‘The sad thing about the last three games is that in the last 15 minutes of each game we gave away three tries through unforced errors and turnovers in our own 22. That is when the team becomes a little bit desperate not to disappoint and they start throwing the ball around and playing desperate rugby. It is understandable because there is a lot of expectation around the team.’
Smith said that both fans and players are going to have to be patient as he rebuilds a squad that has been virtually torn apart.
‘The biggest lesson at this stage is that Rome was not built in a day. We are starting with a new team; the players must be patient, especially if everyone else is being patient.
‘The number of Pro14 caps in our team is very little. If you look at the Glasgow team that we played, they have players with more Test caps than some of ours have in the Pro14. It is not like these sides are getting weaker, in fact, they are getting more internationals with it being a World Cup year next year.
‘We are still very positive even though it has been a bit of a slow start, or a start that the supporters may not have wanted. It has been a realistic start.’
The Cheetahs next face Ulster who, after a scrappy first half, needed three second-half tries to get past the Kings.
‘I think Ulster have come to win,’ Smith said. ‘Most teams will come to South Africa just to walk away with a win, no matter how ugly it is. It will be the same this weekend at altitude. They will adapt their game to manage their players and stay in the match.
‘I know [Ulster coach] Dan McFarland very well. I know from the way he has coached at Connacht and with his involvement with Glasgow, that he will approach every game differently. He will use different strategies for different sides.’
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images