Franco Smith will be hoping to transfer his European coaching experience to the FNB Shimlas as he heads into his debut FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International season.
Smith, who is also an assistant coach at the Free State Cheetahs, previously held the head coach position at Pro12 club Benetton Treviso between 2007 and 2013 and will be looking to merge the European style of play with the attitude of the Southern Hemisphere.
"I always dreamt of combining the attitude and ability of the Southern Hemisphere with the style of the Northern Hemisphere style, so hopefully we can blend it and play an expansive brand that has become synonymous with the Cheetahs.
"I gained a lot of experience when I was over there [in Italy] and I see things a little differently now. Hopefully I can contribute that experience to the team and make an impact.
"It's a short time to get a lot of it across and I know everything won't happen in three or four months but we are prepared to equip the large group, not only for this season but future seasons," he said.
Smith will be assisted by backline coach Jaco Swanepoel and forwards coach Hendro Scholtz for the upcoming tournament and the trio have already been putting the 50-man squad through their paces but will also be relying on the expertise of consultants throughout the campaign.
"We started our pre-season about four weeks ago and are about to reach the end of phase one of the process. We will come together again for 10 days in December and then again early in the new year.
"The plan is to keep the 50-man squad together for the entire pre-season as we are not only looking at the upcoming season, but also to the next season, so we want a bit of progression. We are trying to do as much as we can with the big group and then, when we need to implement finer details, the squad will be cut," he added.
The FNB Shimlas have played an integral part in blooding the next generation of Currie Cup, Super Rugby and Springbok players, none more so than Springbok Tebogo 'Oupa' Mohoje, who represented them in the 2014 edition of the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International.
"We are very proud of all of them and they serve as a big stimulation to the current players. There is no greater inspiration to our players than Oupa Mohoje, who went all the way by becoming a Springbok.
"His success, and the success of others who have played in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby competitions, not only proves the value this competition but it also goes to show that committed can open doors for you.
"Oupa is very popular on campus and believes in the Shimlas, which is awesome for us, and we are hoping that when he is available, we could use his experience as a consultant or a motivational speaker," he stated.
It's going to be an exciting campaign for the Bloemfontein-based students as they are able to draw on some exciting young players: Neil Klaasen, Tienie Burger, AJ Coertzen, Zee Mkhabela and Ox Nche, who are almost certain to set the Varsity Cup alight.