The Toyota Cheetahs opened the game in style against a depleted Warriors side, missing 16 players at the Rugby World Cup, but dominated every facet of the game to give themselves a perfect start to the competition.
And while there were smiles in Bloemfontein, the mood was contrasted in Port Elizabeth where the Isuzu Southern Kings held the lead until the 67th minute of the game, before going down 31-27 to the Cardiff Blues in their opening game.
Smith cautioned against raised expectations for the season, especially as the Toyota Cheetahs seem to have taken the momentum created by their Currie Cup victory and transferred it to Guinness PRO14.
“We are still a work in progress, and we know that if we want to be competitive away from home, then a few things still need to happen,” Smith said.
“I want to make it clear. We haven’t won anything yet, we simply had a good game. There is a lot to build on and we got better. We won’t read much into it other than what we can take out of it for ourselves. We are happy with the result but there was a lot of reasons for them not to be on par tonight and they will bounce back.
“The five points were important but the next two weeks will be just as important. No matter who we face we want to get five points. But the how is important, to stay focused on what we do and not to focus too much on the results. The next two weeks is going to be really important for us.”
The Toyota Cheetahs coach praised the side for their defence, one of the aspects that was lacking in last year’s Guinness PRO14.
“We are happy with our defence. We have been defending well, but we still have had soft moments, even in the Currie Cup. From January our emphasis has moved a little more towards defence. Our strategy and how we want to defend is coming together,” Smith explained.
“The confidence these players needed we gained in the Currie Cup and winning without the ball is one of the components teams need. You can win with the ball by scoring tries but you also need to win without the ball. That is slowly growing and is becoming part of our DNA.”
In Port Elizabeth, the Isuzu Southern Kings held a 13-5 halftime lead and led 20-12 in the 67th minute before the Cardiff Blues pack mauled their way to two tries to take the lead.
The men from PE scored a late try through Andell Loubscher, but it left them just short and handed the Welsh side a good victory away from home.
Interim coach Robbie Kempson felt the team’s finishing let them down, but he was happy with the team’s performance.
“There was a lot of promising play from the guys, but there were too many missed opportunities,” said Kempson.
“We had three opportunities in their strike zone that we didn’t come away with points and when you are playing teams in the PRO14, that is the difference in the game.
“That is probably why we ended up a bit short in the end. But a lot of youngsters got a run today and it is good to see our kicking game is intact. There are a few subtleties that we need to work on, but we will get there.
“It was our first hit out against very experienced opposition – they had more than 1000 caps on the field while we didn’t have that many. I’m disappointed with the result, but not the manner in which we went about our business.”
The Toyota Cheetahs next face Irish powerhouse Ulster on Saturday, while the Isuzu Southern Kings will face a strong Munster team this coming weekend.
Ulster beat the Ospreys 38-14 in their opening game while Munster were just as impressive in their 39-9 win over Dragons at Thomond Park on Friday.
Other Guinness PRO14 results: Ulster 38 Ospreys 14, Munster 39 Dragons 9, Scarletts 18 Connacht 10, Bennetton 27 Leinster 32, Edinburgh 50 Zebre 15.