#Super Rugby 2017 Preview: Stormers

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Last in our list of previews is the Stormers. In this article we will look at their fixtures, player movements and coaching changes and use this to make a call on how their season will go down.

Summary of 2016 performance:

Log position: 3rd
Conference position: 2nd
W/L/D: 10 – 4 – 1

The Stormers’ 2016 season was above average.

They turned in some top drawer performances but they also, in typical Stormers fashion, nearly embarrassed themselves and their fans. Their biggest problem is consistency – an age old WP problem – and it’s hard to believe that the same side that beat the Bulls 33 – 9 in their season opener, very nearly lost to the Sunwolves – in the end drawing level at 16 at the death.

The Stormers did ditch their great wall of Cape Town approach to Super Rugby during 2016 but if they want to improve in 2017 – they should aim for more consistency. They also qualified for the playoffs by virtue of the conference system and an easy route to the knock outs before getting humped by the Chiefs.

In 2017 they won’t be as lucky.

2017 Super Rugby fixtures:

The Stormers 2017 season starts off with a toughie against the Bulls before hitting a considerably easier patch where they play the Kings, Cheetahs, Sunwolves and enjoy a bye.

After that however it gets nasty.

In consecutive weeks they play the Lions and then the Chiefs at home before embarking on a hellish tour where they will face the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes. Ouch.

They then end their season with another ‘easier’ but not easy run where they play the Blues, Sharks and other conference competitions the Sunwolves and Cheetahs again.

What’s clear is that, if the Stormers are hoping to make the playoffs ahead of the Bulls, they will need to do as much log damage as possible during the first half, do as much as they can during the second, and then try and finish strong in the last.

One thing you have to give the Stormers credit for is that they know how to pull a crowd and you can expect more of the same during this year’s comp.

Player movements and transfers:

The Stormers probably had the most player movement of any SA side ahead of the competition.

They lost two massive names in Vinnie Koch and Schalk Burger – with the latter being a particularly big blow. They also bid farewell to two of their 3 scrumhalves in Schreuder and Groom while outside back Jonny Kotze didn’t pass one too many times and got released to the Bulls.

In terms of players coming in, the two biggest names would probably be Bjorn Basson and SP Marais – both from the Bulls. Both of these guys have been recruited to bolster their back 3 ranks.

Otherwise, the Stormers squad looks young but exciting. All three of their flyhalves are below 25 and have heaps of talent while Seabelo Senatla is giving Super Rugby a proper go this year and there is little doubt that he will light up the 15 man game on numerous occasions during the season. In the forwards, guys like Etzebeth, Du Toit, Malherbe, Notshe and Kolisi are all still at the union and offer the team serious muscle and physicality.

While the squad has heaps of talent – they are a little green in terms of caps so expect the Stormers to throw the word “rebuilding phase” around plenty this year.

Coaching and backroom staff:

The coaching staff hasn’t changed too much. Most notably, Fleck has been made permanent, Paul Treu is now officially the defence coach and Kiwi Paul Feeley has been brought on to take care of skills and attack. A Kiwi taking care of attack? Smart move.

Prediction:

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It is going to be a tough year for the Stormers and I am conflicted about whether or not they will rise to the challenge. They have a massive amount of talent to work with but their fixture list is hellish and in a long season – a couple of key injuries could make it even tougher for them to compete. Specially when dealing with a group of youngsters.

One benefit of being in the kiwi conference is that the Stormers will be more ‘kiwi fit’ come playoff time but for them to make it beyond that – they will have to hope that some of their youngsters really step up.

But I suspect 2017 is going to be a rebuilding year.

Prediction: 1st place in conference, mid table overall

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