Despite defeat, Cheetahs’ Smith has high praise for skills of Cape winners
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith‚ who is also the Springbok backline coach‚ praised the Stormers’ skills after they dismantled his side 53-10 at Newlands on Saturday.
It was a bittersweet experience for Smith‚ who watched the Cheetahs concede eight tries to some tremendous attacking rugby from the Stormers.
As Cheetahs coach he has a lot of work to do‚ but as a member of the Bok coaching staff he was delighted.
“What the Stormers did out there makes you excited about South African rugby. They were outstanding‚” Smith said.
“Their defence‚ dominance in collisions‚ the width that they got on attack‚ the offloads and the skill and freedom they had to play was excellent.
“I can name a lot of areas where we [the Cheetahs] were weak today‚ but you also have to give credit to a side that played really well.
“With my Springbok cap on, it makes me excited to see players doing that because it’s exceptional what the Stormers coaching staff have achieved.
“They’ve been good all season, but today they fired on all cylinders for the first time and it was brilliant.”
The Stormers attacking improvement has been credited to New Zealand skills coach Paul
Feeney‚ but Smith believes that there has been a change of mindset across the board in South African rugby.
Coaches like Feeney are helping‚ but the biggest change has come from a recognition that SA rugby needs to move into a more skillful age.
Smith was part of the Bok management on their infamous tour to Britain and Italy last year‚ which resulted in three defeats‚ including against Italy for the first time.
He was not impressed with players’ fitness on that tour.
“Attacking play in general across all the teams has been better this year, from the way the Lions played last year and we did in the Currie Cup, to the Stormers and Sharks this season, is encouraging‚” Smith said.
“But I’m also impressed with the fitness levels of players‚ which is vital if we want to play an attacking style of rugby.
“In the final five minutes of the game‚ Eben Etzebeth came tracking across on the cover defence and made a crucial tackle‚ which indicates he is really well conditioned.
“Last year on the Bok tour‚ when we analysed our matches‚ we could see in the final stages of matches that players were not moving well because they were a bit fatigued.
“But now the physical conditioning of the players is excellent.
“To play this style of attacking rugby‚ it has to be complemented by outstanding conditioning.
“We are proving that South Africans have the ability to play a style similar to New Zealand.
“I’ve been advocating for it for a while but there was a lot of resistance because the feeling is that it’s risk-taking.
“It’s not, it’s about taking responsibility of the ball.
“There are enough coaches who can coach this style because the only thing holding them back was a conservative mindset.
“It’s great to see top teams are winning games with the ball in hand.
“It’s one thing to give credit to Paul Feeney‚ but [Stormers coach] Robbie Fleck and [director of rugby] Gert Smal deserve credit for allowing him to have the freedom to change things and move away from traditional SA style.” – TMG Digital