Super Rugby uncertainty playing on Cheetahs' minds
REACTION: Cheetahs head coach Franco believes his team's uncertain future in Super Rugby contributed to their 30-38 loss to the Sharks in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
It is widely expected that SANZAAR will trim the number teams from 18 to 15 in favour of a revamped Super Rugby competition after widespread criticism for the current convoluted format.
It is believed that two teams from South Africa and one from Australia will be cut to make this happen. The Cheetahs are one of the three teams expected to face the chopping block in the coming days.
Smith believes all the talk and the speculation has added "unnecessary pressure" to his team's current campaign.
"I am disappointed," Smith told reporters after the loss to the Sharks.
"I felt we made too many mistakes. It's an old story - we looked nervous.
"I know that there is a lot of pressure. Some of it is a little bit forced with the whole question about the franchise...some of it is from outside which we can't control, but the guys don't want to disappoint and I could see it in the way they played. There are errors we made that we never do.
"Once we were up 20-15, I felt we were playing to not lose instead of playing to win and I believe that there is a lot of pressure on us.
"There is a lot of talk about this franchise thing and we don't want to disappoint."
Smith says his team deserves their place in Super Rugby.
"We believe we merit to stay in this competition. The whole of the central part of South Africa merits this franchise.
"I think we must just put that [defeat] behind us this week and really focus and concentrate on what we can control.
"We are a good side. We are a good team. We are better than we were tonight [Saturday] and I feel outside influences did influence some of the decision making. It is tough but it is something we have to deal with and hopefully a decision will be made soon," Smith added.
Smith's long-term plan to make the Cheetahs a powerhouse in the South Hemisphere might never be accomplished if they are to be cut from the competition.
"We started 20 months ago with a plan to become a sustainable good franchise here and now we are only in our second Super Rugby season - we are five games down the trot [this year] and we have been putting out good performances and I think it is unnecessary pressure that is now added.
"But we are going to fight that. We want to keep every Cheetahs supporter happy and give them the best chance to be part of this and I know what impact it is having on a lot of decisions and the doubt that it is bringing.
"The reasons behind this is uncontrollable and we need to control our controllables better.
"We just need to play the best brand we can and keep on winning with the brand that we are playing and leave our hearts on the field." said Smith.