Causing upsets is the aim of the game for Benetton Treviso coach Franco Smith but the South African is dreaming of a day where beating the RaboDirect PRO12’s finest is no surprise.
Four years into a journey to turn the Italian outfit from one of Europe’s whipping boys into a formidable force, Smith admits the road ahead is an arduous one but the distance they have travelled already is remarkable.
Last year, their first campaign contending against the best that Scotland, Ireland and Wales have to offer produced more defeats than victories en route to a tenth-placed finish, but Smith’s charges carried their steep learning curve into this season.
The only difference is that now Smith no longer accepts the excuse of being league new-boys. Even talking about their impressive four-match winning streak which was brought abruptly to a halt by Edinburgh, the former Free State Cheetahs boss demands more consistent standards at the highest level.
“It’s hard to say where we want to finish in the RaboDirect PRO12 but we want to cause as many upsets as we can and let all the other teams know who we are,” said Smith.
“I’m very proud that we won four straight games but against Edinburgh we dominated and should have beaten them.
“But I think what shows how far we’ve come is, it’s not the big things that are the problem, not the structure, not the mentality or lineouts or the scrums, but the small things which you can improve.
“If each player makes a tiny error out there, that’s still 15 mistakes in a match and that is still too many.
“The four-match winning run is behind us and we’ve lost two matches since so we need to get back on track.
“We’re getting closer and closer to the level we want to be at, we’ve got the characters and we’ve got the experience.
“That is all we need, but it’s not what you know but what you do with what you know that counts.”
Smith prides himself on running an Italian club with a European mentality, his team-talks are delivered and notes are written in the native tongue but his expectations are to achieve a level of performance to contend with the continent’s best.
They announced their arrival on the European stage when they were cruelly forced to settle for a 26-26 Heineken Cup draw with Ospreys despite leading going in to the last minute, but there is little fanfare from Smith – he believes they should have secured the victory.
“We pushed Ospreys all the way until the end but the truth was we should have wrapped up the win earlier,” added Smith.
“We missed a conversion at 20-20 and that let them back in the game.
“We’ve shown what we are capable of but we are not consistent enough yet, and my job is to make sure we maintain these standards as much as possible.
“We keep some constants, everyone speaks Italian, even the imported players, and we all work hard and pay lots of attention to detail. I think we’ve all proved that we’re here to compete.”