The Stormers were an improved team from 2016 even if their record and way of exiting the competition were eerily similar. After winning 10 games (just like last year) and getting knocked out in the playoffs by the Chiefs (just like last year) outsiders could easily say the Stormers had plateaued and that this was just more of the same.
Those close to the team, however, will point out that the South African side played all the New Zealand teams – and played them very well when at home – in 217 after not playing them at all 12 months ago. They also have been nurturing a number of young and exciting players who will allow the Stormers to push on next season.
Here is their review:
This isn’t an easy choice as the whole Stormers back line was a joy to watch. The back three, in particular, were impressive week after week, with their ability and want to counter-attack at every single opportunity. In the modern game, you need the ability to attack from anywhere on the pitch. To nullify the Stormers counter-attack, teams kicked the ball shorter just to make sure that the option wasn’t available.
SP Marais was close to getting the nod here, but it is Dillyn Leyds who was the catalyst for almost everything good the Stormers did over the back half of the year. Leyds is a player who can beat people one-on-one (he caused 45 missed tackles and had 19 line breaks) and who then can find a pass (11 offloads) in the open field. In 2018 he will have to be even more of a force from the back.
It is an offseason disappointment more than anything else, but losing Cheslin Kolbe to Toulouse is a setback for the Cape Town side.
Kolbe was one of two Stormers players in the Super Rugby 2017 team of the season – the other was lock Pieter-Steph Du Toit – and losing such a high potential player is a massive blow. At just 23-years-old, Kolbe should gear up for another decade or so in South Africa, but the lucrative offer from the Northern Hemisphere has tempted the speedster to try his luck on the other side of the world.
Kolbe will be a game changing talent wherever he plays, but his connection from the fullback position with the likes of Leyds and Marais will be missed at Newlands next year.
The Stormers 36-24 win over the Chiefs in Round 6 was their best win this year.
It was their sixth win in succession, but it was by far the biggest as it answered a lot of questions about what this team would be like as the season played out. The Stormers had been knocked out of the 2016 players in embarrassing fashion (60-21) by the same Chiefs side and they knew that to make an impression in 2017 they would have to take the scalps of a couple of New Zealand sides.
The Stormers came out on fire – scoring a converted try after just three minutes – and took a 24-18 lead into the break despite playing 10 minutes with 14 men. A solid defensive effort in the second half sealed their best win of the year.
You could pick any of the three games on the Stormers tour of New Zealand for this dubious honour. They made no real impression against the Kiwi sides on their own patch. The Stormers lost to the Crusaders (57-24), Highlanders (57-14), and Hurricanes (41-22) in consecutive weeks, with the defeat to the Highlanders probably being the worst of the bunch.
The game in Dunedin even started with the Stormers taking a 7-0 lead, but they collapsed as the home side ran in nine tries and the visitors could score just two. It was a game that was effectively decided before half time as the Stormers just couldn’t execute when they had their chances and the Highlanders were ruthless in attack.
It also questioned the Stormers ability to play against the very best in the competition, something the side righted later on in the year.
Reason For Hope
The Stormers quarterfinal defeat against the Chiefs showed that they can make it to that point before falling at the first hurdle. Unlike 2016, this time around they had the chances to beat the Chiefs in a 17-11 defeat.
The base here though is good. There are outstanding young players all over the pitch for the Stormers and they play an exciting brandof the game that fans and neutrals alike can get behind. It was a positive season – albeit one that ended in disappointing fashion – and the level of play bodes well for the future of this South African franchise.
Overall Grade – B-
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