Cheetahs say head coach Franco Smith has been offered Italy job
By Tony Tighe
Last Updated: 13/04/19 10:32pm
The Cheetahs said their head coach Franco Smith has been offered the chance to take charge of Italy after the World Cup.
There had been no suggestion the Azzurri were looking to replace current head coach Conor O'Shea.
The Irishman's contract expires after next year's Six Nations and said in January that Italy wanted him to stay on.
However, the Cheetahs released a statement following Saturday's PRO14 win over the Dragons revealing Italy's approach to Smith.
They said: "The management of the Free State Cheetahs is aware of the offer made to the Franco Smith, head coach of the Toyota Cheetahs, to coach the Italian national side as from January 1, 2020.
"The situation will be handled at the highest level with the board of directors of the Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd.
"Management wish to assure stakeholders, suite holders and supporters that the coaching structures will be properly structured to ensure success.
"Management will swiftly deal with the situation and the board of directors will see to it that the Cheetah teams perform at the highest levels in all the competitions that they participate in."
Former South Africa international Smith had spells with Bologna and Treviso during his playing career and also coached the latter between 2007 and 2013.
The 46-year-old took charge of the Cheetahs in 2015, having previously been an assistant coach at the Bloemfontein-based club.
Italy have lost all 15 games in the Six Nations since O'Shea took charge and are unlikely to qualify from a 2019 World Cup pool that includes back-to-back champions New Zealand and South Africa.