Cheetahs can the 'one-pass game'

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 13:13
Large franco smith with players  shadows 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The fear of failure is the reason why many South African teams, and coaches, still resist switching to an expansive game.

Free State Cheetahs coach Franco Smith, speaking to rugby365 ahead of their trip to Durban on Saturday for a top-of-the-table Currie Cup clash with the Sharks, said they will continue with their "high risk, high reward" approach.

Speaking about the dramatic change in direction since taking over from Naka Drotské towards the end of Super Rugby last year, Smith described his team as "a work in progress".

The Cheetahs, the only unbeaten side remaining in the Currie Cup, have scored 22 tries in four matches - bettered only by the Lions, with 25 from four outings.

The table-topping Sharks (20 tries from five games) and third-placed Blue Bulls (19 from five outings) are in the early stages of their evolution to an expansive game.

Smith admitted his team is perhaps not always as accurate as they could be, but they will persist.

"When you play with the ball in hand there will always be errors," Smith told rugby365.

"That is why most teams in South Africa have been playing one-pass rugby - they did that to eliminate errors.

"Very seldom will you see a team playing an expansive game, like us, go through the game without making mistakes.

"Even teams like the All Blacks, Hurricanes and Lions - who play this type of rugby - make mistakes."

"That is why [former Springbok coach] Heyneke [Meyer] moved away from innovative rugby because mistakes happen.

"It was a case of trying to limit mistakes."

Smith felt there may be more mistakes - or inaccuracy - in the remainder of the season, but they are resolute in their drive to evolve into a team that can win while being entertaining.

"We obviously want to improve a lot, but I am happy with the growth of this team.

"I can see the hard work is beginning to reap rewards.

"The [improved] aerial skills and the backs and the distribution of forwards are positive signs.

"We have worked on numerous aspects of our game in the last 18 months that are beginning to come through.

"However, the process is far from complete."

Jan de Koning

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Team P W D L Pts
Free State Cheetahs 8 8 0 0 39
Blue Bulls 8 6 0 2 30
Western Province 8 5 0 3 27
Golden Lions 8 5 0 3 26
Sharks 8 5 0 3 25
Griquas 8 4 0 4 21
Boland 8 2 0 6 11
Pumas 8 1 0 7 10
EP Kings 8 0 0 8 1