Cheetahs building a new innings
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Cheetahs coach Franco Smith played down expectations that his team will automatically transform the Currie Cup success into Super Rugby form.
Speaking to rugby365 ahead of their season opener - against 2016 finalists the Lions - Smith said his team will 'start from scratch' this year.
The Cheetahs coach felt they achieved their pre-season goals, despite taking a slightly different approach this year.
They lost 7-43 to the Stormers in Harare late January and also went down 7-35 to the Sharks earlier this month.
"I attach no value to any of the pre-season results," Smith said, adding that the Super Rugby season is very long and a "massive physical and mental challenge".
"That is why it was important that we did not play too many games," he said, adding that winning was not one of their pre-season goals.
"We wanted to try out new things and give players who had not played in a very long time some game time.
"Most of the guys in that first match against the Stormers had not played for six months," he said, adding: "Only three of the guys who featured in that first match [in Harare] played in the Currie Cup last year.
"The second game [against the Sharks] was used to give game time to the guys who did not play against the Stormers, so that was their first game of the year."
He admitted that the error count in both games was higher than what was expected.
"However, it must be remembered that you can't just continue where you finished the previous year," he told rugby365.
"The most important lesson from these [pre-season] games is that we build up towards a product [winning the completion] in the Currie Cup.
"The [off-season] break meant we lost momentum, so we have to start from scratch to build an innings again."
He admitted there will be expectations from outside the Cheetahs camp, based on the fact that they are Currie Cup champions.
"I don't want to add pressure on the players.
"We have a bunch of players who have played Super Rugby, but are not yet 'Super Rugby players'.
"It will take us another year [to reach that level].
"In saying that, the enthusiasm within the camp is very high, but we have to channel that properly."
By Jan de Koning