• Super Rugby preview: Stormers

    The Stormers will strike out in a bold attacking direction in 2016, writes JON CARDINELLI.

    For five years, Stormers fans have watched their team battle through the regular season and then fall at the first play-off hurdle. The appointment of Eddie Jones was viewed as a significant sign of change.

    Over the past 15 years, Jones has encouraged his teams to play an attacking brand of rugby. He steered minnows Japan to three wins at the 2015 World Cup, a record that included a shock victory against the Springboks. It was hoped that Jones would provide the Stormers with new ideas and eventually a trophy to shout about.

    Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed in mid-November when the Australian accepted a lucrative offer to coach England. The Stormers administration scrambled to secure a like-for-like alternative. Director of rugby Gert Smal promised that the Stormers would follow through with plans to strike out in a new attacking direction in 2016 under interim head coach Robbie Fleck.

    There will be some growing pains as the team adapts to a new style and philosophy. The departure of several key players may also disrupt the side. The Stormers will miss Jean de Villiers’s leadership, Duane Vermeulen’s influence on defence, and Demetri Catrakilis’s accuracy in front of goal.

    That said, they have a good draw and thus a great opportunity to qualify for the play-offs. The Stormers will not play the New Zealand Super Rugby sides during the regular season in 2016. They will play the two top Australian sides of the 2015 competition, namely the Brumbies and the Waratahs, at Newlands.

    The big question is whether the Cape side can end its rotten run in the play-offs.

    FORWARD TO WATCH
    The Stormers need to address their lineout problems if they’re going to be a force in 2016. The quality of the throwing by the hookers has left a lot to be desired, as has the contesting on opposition ball. The recruitment of Sharks and Bok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit should boost the Stormers at this set piece. Du Toit won’t want for motivation after playing second fiddle to Lood de Jager and Victor Matfield at the World Cup. In the coming Super Rugby tournament, the strapping No 5 will be looking to prove a point regarding his lineout management skills as well as his ability in open play. While his set-piece contributions will be crucial to the Stormers’ title prospects, the coaching staff should also urge him to utilise his strengths with ball in hand.

    BACK TO WATCH
    Damian de Allende finished the 2015 Super Rugby season as a hero and a villain. A powerfully built man with an outstanding appreciation of space, he beat more defenders than any other player (73). However, the other aspects of De Allende’s game often cost the Stormers. Along with the Cheetahs’ Joe Pietersen and the Waratahs’ Michael Hooper, he missed more tackles than any other player (30). De Allende showed an improvement at the 2015 World Cup, and will aim to carry that form through to the 2016 Super Rugby tournament. His natural strengths should also be amplified as the Stormers look to play a more intelligent and penetrative attacking game.

    PLAYERS IN
    Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks)
    Cornal Hendricks (Cheetahs)
    JC Janse van Rensburg (Bayonne)
    JP Smith (Brumbies)
    Jano Vermaak (Toulouse)

    PLAYERS OUT
    Manuel Carizza (Racing 92)
    Demetri Catrakilis (Montpellier)
    Jean de Villiers (Leicester)
    Patrick Howard (Northampton)
    Steven Kitshoff (Bordeaux)
    Neil Rautenbach (Cheetahs)
    Michael Rhodes (Saracens)
    Duane Vermeulen (Toulon)

    2016 FIXTURES
    27 February: Bulls (h)
    5 March: Cheetahs (a)
    12 March: Sharks (h)
    19 March: Brumbies (h)
    26 March: Jaguars (a)
    1-3 April: BYE
    8 April: Sunwolves (h)
    16 April: Lions (a)
    23 April: Reds (h)
    30 April: Waratahs (h)
    6-7 May: BYE
    14 May: Sunwolves (a)
    21 May: Bulls (a)
    28 May: Cheetahs (h)
    BREAK FOR JUNE TESTS
    2 July: Rebels (a)
    9 July: Force (a)
    16 July: Kings (h)

    PREVIOUS LOG FINISHES
    Super 12
    1996: 11th
    1997: Did not play
    1998: 9th
    1999: 2nd (semi-finalists)
    2000: 5th
    2001: 7th
    2002: 7th
    2003: 9th
    2004: 3rd (semi-finalists)
    2005: 9th
    Super 14
    2006: 11th
    2007: 10th
    2008: 5th
    2009: 10th
    2010: 2nd (finalists)
    Super Rugby
    2011: 2nd (semi-finalists)
    2012: 1st (semi-finalists)
    2013: 7th
    2014: 11th
    2015: 3rd (qualifiers)
    Note: Played as Western Province in 1996 and did not qualify in 1997

    2015 RECORD
    Won: 10 (63%)
    Drew: 1
    Lost: 6

    2015 NUMBERS THAT MATTER
    43 – Penalty goals by flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis (Rank 1)
    1,837 – Tackles made (Rank 5)
    268 – Tackles missed (Rank 12)
    32 – Tries scored during league stage (Rank 10)
    373 – Points scored during league stage (Rank 7)
    7,073 – Metres run (Rank 8)
    153 – Lineouts won on own throw (Rank 13)
    Source: Vodacom Rugby App

    FAST FACT
    The Stormers have a record of one from seven in Super Rugby play-off matches

    FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER
    Damian de Allende
    @Doogz

    OTHER SA PREVIEWS
    Bulls preview
    Cheetahs preview
    Kings preview
    Lions preview
    Sharks preview

    VIDEO: New Super Rugby format explained using Stormers as example

    Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images

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    Jon Cardinelli