The Stormers experienced their best Super 14 season last year since 1999 , narrowly missing out on a semi final berth, ending in fifth spot.
With Erasmus at the helm, the Cape franchise has made a resurgence last year by playing an attractive brand of rugby.
While they may have lacked cohesion in the past, after having lots of talent in their stocks, Erasmus has been able to mold the Cape outfit into an impressive unit in a very short time.
The Stormers have highlighted a bad start in 2008 as the main reason why they came up short at the tale-end of the competition. To rectify this Erasmus has put a lot more emphasis on the pre-season so that they can hit the ground running with an eye on those early home games in particular.
While they have relied on individual performances to get them through in the past the ability of the Stormers to produce brilliant team performances will place them among the front runners in this year’s competition.
Strengths: They have great attacking options in the midfield and very good depth among the loose forwards.
Weakness: With Ross Skeate’s departure the Stormers have not managed to find a suitable replacement and this could cause problems at line-out time. There’s hardly any experienced back-up locks with Andries Bekker being the only specialist in this department.
Noteworthy signings: Duane Vermeulen (Cheetahs), Hilton Lobberts (Bulls), Percy Montgomery (France).
Noteworthy losses: Robbie Diack (Ulster), Ross Skeate (Toulon), Tiaan Liebenberg (Toulon), Eddie Andrews (retirement)
Coach: Rassie Erasmus has been a breath of fresh air at the Stormers having built a winning culture during the latter stages of last year’s tournament. After making a great impact on the domestic scene he has finally announced his arrival on the international stage.
Captain: Jean de Villiers excelled in the his leadership role last year and turned in his most impressive season culminating in the SA Rugby Player of the Year award. After playing almost every game for the Stormers and Springboks in 2008, his activity will have to be carefully managed in this year’s tournament.
Player(s) to watch: The much publicised arrival of Duane Vermeulen should be very interesting as well as the role Luke Watson has to play after the troubles of 2008. As always Schalk Burger’s presence will be instrumental to the Stormers’ cause.
2008 Position: 5th
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)
2009 Prediction: On the basis of last year’s form the Stormers do have what it takes to go all the way in 2009.
Stormers squad – provisional: Gio Aplon, Andries Becker, Gcobani Bobo, Schalk Brits, Schalk Burger, Tonderai Chavhanga, Bolla Conradie, Jean de Villiers, Schalk Ferreira, Adriaan Fondse, Conrad Hoffman, Wylie Human, Juan Harris, Peter Grant, Conrad Jantjes, Ricky Januarie, Francois Louw, Pieter Louw, Justin Melck, JD Moller, Brian Mujati, Pieter Myburgh, Sireli Naqelevuki, Morgan Newman, Hanyani Shimangi, Francois van der Merwe, Janro van Niekerk, Luke Watson, Percy Montgomery
Saturday 14 February v Sharks, home
Friday 20 February v Reds, home
Saturday 28 February v Blues, home
Saturday 7 March v Bulls, away
Saturday 14 March v Lions, home
Saturday 28 March v Crusaders, away
Saturday 4 April v Waratahs, away
Saturday 11 April v Brumbies, away
Saturday 18 April v Hurricanes, away
Friday 24 April v Highlanders, away
Saturday 2 May v Chiefs, home
Saturday 9 May v Western Force, home
Saturday 16 May v Cheetahs, away
Courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet