Cheetahs agree to release coach Smith to Italian national team
The Cheetahs have agreed to release coach Franco Smith to the Italian national team at the end of the year.
Smith who is the Cheetahs head coach and director of rugby will take over the reins of the Azzurri on January 1 next year in a deal that should keep him there until after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Smith will replace Irishman Conor O’Shea who has been Italy’s national coach since 2016.
Italy have won just six of their 38 Tests under O’Shea and in that period they failed to win a match in the Six Nations.
Smith will be the second South African to coach the Azzurri after Nick Mallett who held the position from 2007 to 2011.
Smith who played and coached Treviso is highly regarded in Italy.
He coached Treviso from 2007 to 2013 before returning to Bloemfontein where he took up the position of assistant coach at the Cheetahs.
He then took charge of the Shimlas team and charted their path to Varsity Cup success in 2015.
He then became head coach of the Cheetahs before becoming director of rugby following the departure of Rory Duncan to Worcester Warriors.
Smith will coach the Free State Cheetahs in the Currie Cup and will remain in the position of director of rugby until the end of November 2019.
A new coach will be appointed for the Pro14 competition which starts in September.
The Cheetahs said in a statement their Board of Directors will appoint a panel that will be responsible for identifying the best candidate for the position of head coach.
The said applications for the position will be advertised internally‚ externally and through Saru.