Then came British & Irish Lion Jamie Roberts and how he helps the Stormers midfield settle is going to be a big factor going forward
It’s safe to assume that every team will want to make the most of their Super Rugby campaigns. The Stormers, even more so they have every reason to want to do just that.
Not only is it their last season at Newlands, but the Stormers also have more Springboks than any other franchise, big-name players, by the way.
So, naturally, you would expect the wave of confidence and ecstasy the World Cup triumph brought to be most prominent within the Cape team.
Then there is also the fact that it’s about time the Stormers go all the way to the final again.
With the pre-season wrapped up and a tough task in the form of the Hurricanes awaiting at Newlands on Saturday (3.05 pm kick-off), here are four boxes John Dobson’s Stormers will want to tick in the opening round.
Rating the centre
Seldom in recent years could one say the Stormers lacked depth, but if there was one area that emerged as a bit of a concern during the 2019 season, it was midfield.
Towards the end of last year, the departure of star centre and World Cup-winner Damian de Allende and the continued injury woes experienced by Dan du Plessis left the Stormers thin in midfield.
And while Michal Hazner’s arrival certainly should have eased some of that concern, it was at No 12 where the Stormers’ problems primarily were.
Then there is also the matter of Ruhan Nel’s involvement come the play-offs – another issue seeing as he is likely to be with the Blitzboks preparing for the Olympics by then.
Then came British & Irish Lion Jamie Roberts and how he helps the Stormers midfield settle is going to be a big factor going forward.
His rating in his first Super Rugby game is by no means going to necessarily predict the Stormers’ future where their centre play is concerned, but it will sure provide a good assessment.
Going the distance
Last week, assistant coach Dawie Snyman addressed an area he feels has been in need of some remedying for a while now – the Stormers’ consistency, not just game to game, but from kick-off to the final whistle.
He referenced Western Province’s Currie Cup disappointment against the Free State Cheetahs, when they let a healthy lead slip to lose the game in Bloemfontein.
It’s something we have seen at Super Rugby level as well, and Snyman added that a big focus has been on conditioning the guys to close out those big games in the last quarter.
That sustained effort is one major hurdle, and if they get it right, things may very well go differently for the Stormers this year.
Make their star
I mentioned the fact that the Stormers boast a large chunk of the Bok contingent, and making that count is going to be important; they need to use those World Cup winners they have in key areas to their advantage.
There’s Siya Kolisi, the captain whose continued rise, especially after Japan, has been remarkable, joined in the loose trio by Bok superstar Pieter-Steph du Toit.
There’s hooker Bongi Mbonambi, who unseated Malcolm Marx as he took his game to another level.
Then there’s Steven Kitshoff, who bumped the word “impact” up even higher, and Frans Malherbe, who can confidently take his fair share of credit for the Springboks’ dominant front-row operations last year.
And let’s not forget about Damian Willemse and Herschel Jantjies
But those are just the Boks – the Stormers have ridiculous depth, and their backline can be the most lethal in South Africa with the likes of Dillyn Leyds and Sergeal Petersen also in the mix. You don’t have to be one of the Newlands Faithful to expect the Stormers to put all their ammo to proper use this year.
And it all starts this weekend.
The Stormers’ try-scoring stats were unimpressive in 2019, to say the least. It was a problem right from the start.
The Stormers’ attack in general was an area of concern, and it was further highlighted by their poor try-scoring record.
Snyman has said that they have looked at the work-ons where their attacking game is concerned, adding that he is confident that they can create opportunities and finish.
If they check that box and successfully string together more attacking opportunities – and finish them to get those tries – 2020 could have a different taste for South Africa’s most talent-laden outfit.