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Expectations Our Main Challenge: Smith

  • Our worst enemy at the moment is fulfilling expectations from fans, says Smith.

Even before the Toyota Cheetahs have become accustomed to displaying South Africa’s Premier domestic trophy – the Currie Cup – in their stadium, they have had to turn their attention to a bigger challenge in this year’s Guinness PRO14 Championship.

The Currie Cup champions swept to the title earlier this month after beating the Lions on their home turf.

Cheetahs’ good run continued this past weekend when they stormed to a massive 48-14 victory over last season’s Guinness Pro14 finalists, Glasgow Warriors, in Bloemfontein on Friday night.

With fans all excited by the back to back victories, coach Franco Smith said expectations were their biggest challenge at the moment.

Smith, who is set to leave the team, has stayed on as new coach Hawies Fourie is recovering from an operation, and will take charge of the side for the first three games, thereby continuing the momentum gained from the Currie Cup Championship.

And Smith knows the dangers of expectation, especially with the central South African city still buzzing from the Currie Cup victory.

“There are so many positives and negatives about this, but we can only focus on the positives,” Smith said.

“Our worst enemy at the moment is expectation and people think we are just going to go from one championship to the next and everything will just fall into place. I know from experience, we have to keep on working hard because we are not the final product yet.

“That is the mentality among the players. We’ve achieved well by winning the Currie Cup and we have enjoyed that moment, but these guys are really task-driven and now to get the momentum and use the opportunity is important,” noted Smith.

He believes the Cheetahs will be at their best in this year’s Guinness PRO14, especially as they’ve had the perfect momentum shift in the Currie Cup, and have a fit, in-form squad.

“I don’t think we have been as prepared for this Championship as now. We must make sure we don’t get caught out by either being complacent – which I don’t think we can ever be, or underprepared, or underestimate what is coming,” indicated Smith.

Cheetahs will take on Ulster tomorrow (Sat) in what promises to be a thrilling encounter. Ulster scored five tries as they began their Pro14 campaign with a convincing 38-14 bonus-point victory over Ospreys.

The exciting news for the visitors is the inclusion of Bok flank Marcell Coetzee who has been included in Ulster’s squad for the matches against the Cheetahs and Kings after recovering from injury.

The 28-year-old had his World Cup hopes dashed by an ankle injury he suffered while in action for the Springboks in a warm-up match against Argentina in Pretoria.

Coetzee could get his first minutes after recovering and being named in Ulster’s 28-man squad for their two-match tour to South Africa.

Also included in the squad is former Sharks and Lions back Louis Ludik, as well as South African-born Irish hooker Rob Herring.

Ulster started their campaign with a 38-14 bonus-point win over the Ospreys. They will come up against familiar faces in their first tour match against the Cheetahs, who have Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf. Pienaar spent over seven years with the club after a move from the Sharks.

By: Thapelo Molebatsi