JON CARDINELLI selects the best players who represented the Stormers between 2010 and 2019.
15 Gio Aplon
Aplon spent eight seasons with the Stormers and was part of the ‘dream team’ that progressed to the 2010 Super 14 final. While the Cape franchise was known for its uncompromising defence during that period, Aplon was recognised as one of the most dangerous runners in the game. The wing-cum-fullback opted to further his career in France in 2014 before linking up with Toyota Verblitz in Japan in 2017.
14 Cheslin Kolbe
Kolbe scored seven tries in his breakout season for the Stormers in 2014 to become the newest darling of Newlands. Although small in stature – at 1.70m and 80kg – the youngster showed that he was very much in the Aplon mould with regard to his ability to hit a gap and race away from defenders. Kolbe only started to realise his potential when he moved to Toulouse in 2017, though, and was brought into the Springbok mix in 2018 on the back of a series of impressive performances in the European competitions.
13 Jaque Fourie
The Stormers took their game to the next level when Fourie joined the franchise ahead of the 2010 season. While the outside centre’s stay with the Cape franchise was relatively brief (two years) he made a significant impact on attack and defence. The Stormers midfield was never stronger than when the old firm of De Villiers and Fourie – a formidable centre partnership for the Boks in years gone by – started in tandem during the 2011 season.
12 Jean de Villiers
De Villiers returned to Cape Town after a brief stint with Irish club Munster in late 2010. The Bok centre formed part of the Stormers leadership group for many years – and was often backed to lead the side – until he finally opted to head north for one final fling with English side Leicester. His ability to organise the defence from the No 12 channel – and in many instances, steal a try via a well-timed intercept – was peerless. Damian de Allende, who went on to replace De Villiers at No 12 at the Stormers and the Boks, also deserves a mention after his contributions to the Cape franchise.
11 Bryan Habana
Habana struggled for form after moving from the Bulls to the Stormers in 2010. It wasn’t until 2012 when the record-breaking Bok wing rediscovered his mojo. A tireless and determined defender, and one of the best finishers the game has ever had, Habana made some big contributions during his four-year stay in Cape Town. He left South Africa in late 2013 and went on to win back-to-back European Cup titles with Toulon.
10 Damian Willemse
Few halfbacks have made an outstanding or significant contribution to the Stormers over the past decade. Peter Grant was more solid than spectacular during his tenure as the first-choice flyhalf, while others such as Jean-Luc du Plessis, Kurt Coleman, Elton Jantjies and Rob du Preez struggled with injuries or were simply erratic. Willemse, however, has looked the part since making his Super Rugby debut in 2017. It’s a shame that he wasn’t backed more consistently at No 10 as he has the potential to solve the Stormers’ long-standing attacking and tactical-kicking woes.
9 Dewaldt Duvenage
Duvenage played alongside Grant in the 2010 decider against the Bulls in Soweto. A scrumhalf with a strong pass and an accurate kicking boot, Duvenage was the go-to man for the Stormers during the early parts of the decade. The Cape side went on to experiment with a host of No 9s in the ensuing years. They unearthed a gem in Herschel Jantjies this past season, and one would hope that they continue to back and develop this special player in the years to come.
8 Duane Vermeulen
It remains a mystery why Vermeulen had to wait until 2012 to receive his first Test cap. A powerful ball-carrier as well as an exceptional breakdown exponent, Vermeulen was a key man for the Stormers between 2009 and 2015. His ability to organise the defence – and make those momentum-shifting spot hits – played a major role in the side’s relative success in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
7 Schalk Burger
Burger featured in all three loose-forward positions over the course of his club and international career. As the Stormers’ regular skipper in 2010 and 2011 – and in 2012, before sustaining a serious knee injury – Burger led by brutal example. He added more to his game as the years progressed, though, with those deft passes at the gainline or in the tackle often resulting in a linebreak or try.
6 Siya Kolisi
Kolisi received an opportunity to start regularly for the Stormers after Burger broke down in the first game of the 2012 season. While he didn’t fit the mould of a traditional openside flank, his speed between the rucks as well as his explosive power at the gainline lent the Cape franchise something extra on attack. He developed into a fine defender with an exceptional work rate, and was backed as the team’s regular skipper in 2017.
5 Pieter-Steph du Toit
It’s no secret that Pieter-Steph du Toit’s best – and preferred – position is blindside flank. For the sake of squeezing the aforementioned trio into this team of the decade, we’ve included the versatile forward at No 5. Andries Bekker will go down in history as one of the Stormers’ best lineout locks. Du Toit, however, will be remembered as one of the franchise’s most valuable players. Since moving back to the Cape in 2016, he’s been one of the Stormers’ most consistent performers.
4 Eben Etzebeth
It was Bekker – a giant himself at 2.08m – who marvelled at the size of Etzebeth when the latter reported for his first Stormers training session in 2012. While injuries limited Etzebeth’s involvement at Super Rugby level over the years, he certainly made his presence felt when he got on to the park. The Stormers will miss Etzebeth following the enforcer’s departure to Toulon. While the franchise boasts many second-row options at present, there is only one Eben Etzebeth.
3 Frans Malherbe
The Stormers have been blessed in the front-row department over the past 10 years or so. Malherbe, who along with Kolisi, Etzebeth and Steven Kitshoff signed a long-term deal with the franchise in 2012, has developed into one of the team’s most important players and leaders. No other tighthead has offered the same package of scrummaging power and mobility around the park. Special mention should go to Brok Harris, though, for his consistent contributions at the start of the decade.
2 Bongi Mbonambi
Mbonambi took his game to another level after moving from Pretoria to Cape Town in 2015. While the Stormers have had some excellent hookers over the past 10 years – Tiaan Liebenberg and Scarra Ntubeni to name a few – they haven’t had a player like Mbonambi, who ticks all the boxes at the set pieces, collisions and breakdowns.
1 Steven Kitshoff
Kitshoff has always had ability and composure in spades. He was tested from an early age, coming off the bench in the 2011 Super Rugby semi-final against the Crusaders. He later developed into one of the finest all-round props in South Africa, with his scrummaging prowess only exceeded by his mobility around the park. Kitshoff returned to the Stormers in 2017 after a two-year stint with French club Bordeaux. He’s currently one of the most senior players in the set-up and led the team while Kolisi was injured in 2019. The flame-haired front ranker may win his 100th cap for the franchise in the 2020 season. At the age of 27, his best may still be yet to come.
Photo: Petri Oeschger/Gallo Images