The Cheetahs have announced Franco Smith will replace Conor O’Shea as Italy head coach at the start of next year.
O’Shea has been in charge of the Azzurri for three years and was contracted until after the 2020 Six Nations.
Pro14 club the Cheetahs on Tuesday announced that head coach and director of rugby Smith will succeed O’Shea on January 1 after being offered his first international role.
A Cheetahs statement said: “Franco was offered the opportunity to coach the Italian national side from 1 January 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, Neil Powell, Jacques Nienaber, Pote Human, Brendan 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, where after the new coach will take over the reins for 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.”
Italy have not won a Six Nations match under O’Shea and their last victory in the tournament came when they upset Scotland 22-19 at Murrayfield in 2015.
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