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Italian path clear for Smith

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Cheetahs give the green light to Italy's swoop for Franco Smith

South African PRO14 club Cheetahs have agreed to allow head coach Franco Smith to leave after this year’s Currie Cup so that he can coach the Italy national team from January 1 next year. 

It was on the weekend of April 14 that it initially emerged that the Azzurri had sounded out Smith about his availability in 2020, a development the Cheetahs said they would take some time to consider. 

Now, a month later, they have admitted they are happy for their PRO14 boss to move into international coaching back in the European country where he guided Treviso for a number of seasons. 

In a statement released on Tuesday, the directors of the Cheetahs said: “Franco was offered the opportunity to coach the Italian national side from January 1, 2020. 

“The board of directors see this as a great opportunity for Franco and is proud of the fact that so many top coaches have been developed by the Free State Cheetahs.  

“Free State Rugby is seen as a breeding ground of opportunity with coaches like Rassie Erasmus, Niel Powell, Jacques Nienaber, Pote Human, Brendon Venter, Rory Duncan, Daan Human, who all started off in the Free State – and in the past, Nelie Smith, Gysie Pienaar and others.

“The board of directors is proud of and wishes Franco the best of luck with the opportunity to coach on an international level until the next World Cup in 2023.

“In order to ensure a smooth transition, Franco will remain in the position as head coach for Currie Cup, whereafter the new coach will take over the reins for Guinness PRO14 later in September.

“The new coach will be part of the coaching structures during Currie Cup to experience the culture. After Currie Cup, Franco will stay in the fold as director of rugby until the end of November 2019.

“In the meanwhile, the board of directors has started with the process (of finding a successor) by assigning a panel which includes relevant role players that will be responsible to appoint the best candidate as the new head coach for the Toyota Cheetahs. Applications for the position will be advertised internally, externally and through SARU.”

READ: Franco Smith’s February interview with RugbyPass about his views on PRO14 versus Super Rugby standards

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Cheetahs give the green light to Italy's swoop for Franco Smith