Their excellent defensive organisation should make the Vodacom Stormers strong contenders for a semi-final place in the coming Super 14 season.
Gavin Rich writes for SuperRugby that, that is the view of Neil de Kock, the former Stormers captain and Springbok scrumhalf, who arrived in Cape Town this week as part of the Saracens squad that will test the Cape franchise in their first warm-up match at Newlands on Sunday. De Kock has been with Saracens for the past few seasons, but he watched much of last year’s Stormers campaign on television from his new home in England.
“We were fortunate in that we have a lot of the Super 14 on television over there, and I have been able to keep abreast of what is happening in the southern hemisphere and more particularly with the Stormers,” said De Kock.
“In my view it is not as if the Stormers have to make a big improvement on last year, when they were very impressive once they had recovered from a slow start. They just need to back up what they started last year. After their initial defeats early in the season, they never lost again, and if I recall, they went through several months unbeaten.”
One of the key aspects of the Stormers’ road to a fifth place finish, where they lost out to the fourth placed Hurricanes only on points difference, was their defensive effort.
“I am not sure if the Stormers had the best defensive record last year, but if they didn’t, they must have come pretty close to it. They were outstanding. I don’t think there is any doubt that this Stormers team is useful on attack and will always be able to score tries, so if they can repeat their defensive effort of last year, I think should be one of the team’s in strong contention.”
De Kock admitted that he had spent some time during the English winter following the exploits of the South African cricket team in Australia, but although he found Graeme Smith’s decision to bat through the pain of a broken bone in the Sydney Test, he said he was not tempted to do something similar on Sunday.
“I am really sorry to be missing out on the opportunity to play at Newlands again because of a broken arm, but fortunately I think everyone knows rugby is a contact sport so I will be excused from trying to emulate Graeme,” laughed De Kock.
The former Bok scrumhalf is now 30, and has another year to run with Saracens, where he says he has really enjoyed his rugby, but he said he would not rule out the possibility of a South African swansong should the opportunity arise.
“It would be nice to finish up my career in South Africa, but at the moment I am really enjoying my rugby with Saracens,” he said.
“We have a strong team, with a great blend of youth and experience, and I think we will give the Stormers a good test on Sunday.”
De Kock shared the press conference platform on Thursday with stand-in skipper Chris Jack, the former All Black lock who is playing flank on Sunday, former Bok flank Wickus van Heerden, and experienced former Kiwi flyhalf Glenn Jackson. Justin Marshall will be playing in De Kock’s No9 jersey against the StormersTweet