One can never know which way the Stormers will blow when a Super Rugby season starts. The team from the Cape showed some good signs in 1999 and again in 2004, where they reached the semi-final stage of the tournament.
However, since then they haven’t made a significant impression in the tournament, yet it is rather difficult to understand why.
The Stormers are the perfect example of a team that isn’t guaranteed success in the Super 14, despite the talent that exists within the squad. Cohesion or the lack thereof, has been their major pitfall over the past three years and could cost them again in 2008.
If their one warm-up match against Boland in the pre-season is anything to go by, the Stormers are in for a rude awakening when they play the Bulls at Newlands this month.
They can’t allow themselves to rely on Schalk Burger, Gcobani Bobo and a few other individuals to carry them through the season. That will without a doubt be the immediate challenge for new coach Rassie Erasmus; building a stronger team unit..
Strengths: They have great attacking options in the midfield and a good loose trio.
Weakness: Cohesion is a serious problem for the Stormers and their weak front row will be an Achilles heel.
Noteworthy signings: Brian Mujati (Lions), Wylie Human (Lions), Ricky Januarie (Lions), Hanyani Shimange (Boland); Tony Brown (Sanyo Wild Knights, Japan), Gcobani Bobo (Sharks), Adriaan Fondse (Bulls)
Noteworthy losses: Brent Russell (Saracens), Naas Olivier (Auch), Joe van Niekerk (Lions), De Wet Barry (Harlequins), Huia Edmonds (Brumbies), JP Joubert (Bulls)
Coach: Rassie Erasmus is a breath of fresh air at the Stormers and has a winning culture. He has done wonderful work with the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup, but has yet to make an impact at Super 14 level. With better facilities and a squad with greater depth at the Cape-franchise he could reach his full potential as a coach.
Captain: Jean de Villiers is not the player he once was. However, he is very capable of re-capturing the form that earned him his Springbok debut in 2002. An opportunity at leadership might be just what he needs to get back to his best. It will also be beneficial if he can avoid any injuries this year, so he can find his rhythm again.
Player(s) to watch: Peter Grant is a reliable pivot that is developing quickly and could find himself shouldering a lot more responsibility this season. I suspect that he is ready to step up to the plate and help the talented Stormers backline work better as a unit. Schalk Burger is without a doubt a real asset to the team and most inspiring in that he is so committed on the field and that should rub off on some of the players as the season progresses.
2007 Position: 10th
Best finish: 2nd in 1999
Worst finish: 11th in 1996 and 2006. (That was worse in 1996 when there were only 12 teams.
Home Venue: Newlands, Cape Town (capacity 50 000)
2008 Prediction: This team has so much potential, but one senses they will disappoint again. While there have been some positive changes to the team his year, they will again finish towards the middle of the table.
Backs: Gio Aplon, Gcobani Bobo, Juan de Jongh, Tonderai Chavhanga, Jean de Villiers, Dylan des Fountain, Isma-eel Dollie, Dewald Duvenhage, Peter Grant, Conrad Hoffmann, Wylie Human, Conrad Jantjes, Ricky Januarie, Sireli Naqelevuki, Morgan Newman, Corne Uys.
Forwards: Andries Bekker, Schalk Brits, Schalk Burger, Robbie Diack, Nico du Plessis, Ruuan du Preez, George Earl, Adriaan Fondse, Schalk Ferreira, Deon Fourie, Brock Harris, Rito Hlungwane, Tiaan Liebenberg, Francois Louw, Pieter Louw, Justin Melck, JD Moller, Brian Mujati, Pieter Myburgh, Hanyani Shimange, Ross Skeate, Francois van der Merwe, Janro van Niekerk, Luke Watson
February 16: v Bulls, home
February 23: v Sharks, away
February 29: v Crusaders, home
March 8: v Reds, away
March 14: v Chiefs, away
March 22: v Blues, away
March 28: v Western Force, away
April 4/5: Bye
April 12: v Cheetahs, home
April 19: v Hurricanes, home
April 26: v Highlanders, home
May 3: v Brumbies, home
May 10: v Waratahs, home
May 17: v Lions, away