In 2010, the Stormers reached their first Super Rugby final. They ultimately lost in the final against a more experienced and fired-up Bulls team. In 2011, they qualified for their second consecutive semifinal, this time losing comprehensively to the rampaging Crusaders.
So will 2012 finally be their year?
Whilst they certainly have some more experience in knock-outs after falling in the final hurdles in recent seasons, they have also lost a number of key personnel. There is an abundance of young talent coming through the ranks, and when it comes to the big stage and the pressures of knock-out rugby, experience is often the factor that pushes the team through.
Experience is often the factor that determines whether a team will be labeled a bunch of also-rans or a bunch of Champions. The biggest departure would seem to be Jaque Fourie, whose experience and ability to marshal the defence will be sorely missed. The Stormers have relied on their resilient defence to shut teams out, and the absence of Fourie could leave them exposed in midfield.
Responsibility for leadership will now fall on Jean de Villiers, who will have to organize defensive lines from the inside centre channel. The Stormers have also lost two promising centres in Johann Sadie and Tim Whitehead, who have both left to further their careers at the Bulls and Sharks, respectively.
As much as poor player management will be blamed for these departures, it presents Juan de Jongh with the firm opportunity to cement the No.13 jersey and make it his own. Other notable players to have left include promising young centre JJ Engelbrecht and fly-half Lionel Cronje (both Bulls).
However, the departure that will most likely affect the Stormers is that of flanker Francois Louw, who has played the fetching role to great acclaim in recent years. The Stormers will enter the competition without a recognized fetcher, and this could prove to be their shortfall.
Coach Alister Coetzee’s comments that every player will have to do work at the breakdown might sound good in theory, but practically speaking, it is just not justified. A team needs a fetcher in the loose forwards; the Stormers don’t have one.
So who will make the final cut of 30 for the Super Rugby tournament? Take a look at the positions and who I feel will be selected