Cheetahs: Smith sees the big picture
INTERVIEW: Free State Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has not lost sight of the Currie Cup play-offs, but he has his eye on the bigger picture.
Smith, speaking to rugby365 ahead of their Currie Cup semifinal showdown with the defending champion Golden Lions in Bloemfontein on Saturday, said they will not change their approach at all this week.
The competition's only unbeaten side - nine points clear at the top of the standings ahead of the second-placed Blue Bulls - produced some scintillating rugby and scored 49 tries in eight matches (an average of more than six tries a match).
The only team to have matched them is the Lions, also on 49 tries in eight outings. That is at least 10 more than the Blue Bulls (39) and Western Province (35), who meet in the other semifinal.
While teams often tend to take a more conservative approach into play-offs, given the additional pressure and intensity, Smith said they will not be distracted from their focus on the bigger picture.
"I have been involved in enough play-off matches to know that your build-up for a semifinal and Final starts from round one," Smith told rugby365.
"From day one you have to play the game [style] that you want to play in a Final.
"There might be one or two things we do differently, but we have worked on winning every game and the semifinal is the same."
He said they will continue to strive to produce a better product.
They used the past fortnight - a break courtesy of a South African Rugby Union decision to postpone the play-offs for a week - to recharge and reset.
"However, we also look at the big picture.
"While the semifinal and Final are important, the plan is to be more competitive in Super Rugby next year and to ensure there are more players at the disposal of the Springbok coach [Allister Coetzee]," he said of a team that has not finished inside the top 10 in Super Rugby since 2013.
"That is why we want to grow as a team and create better players."
The Cheetahs will be at full strength for Saturday's semifinal.
Wing Sergeal Pietersen and flank Paul Schoeman have both recovered from injuries they suffered in the Round Eight encounter with the Pumas last month.
Prop Danie Minnie will also come into the selection frame after his injury-enforced lay-off.
"All the Currie Cup regulars will be available," Smith said.
By Jan de Koning