at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
There will be those who’ll say they’re boring and they don’t score enough tries. But there can be no doubt the Stormers have been this year’s best Super Rugby team – their defence has again been quite outstanding, while their consistency of performance will have their remaining opponents questioning whether it is even worth playing against them.
It was quite a final weekend of Super Rugby, set up in controversial fashion last Friday when the Hurricanes beat the Chiefs. Every match after that had something riding on it and not until the Bulls beat the Lions late on Saturday evening did we know who’d be playing who in the “quarterfinals” this weekend.
Now we know that South Africa have dominated the competition, producing three “finalists” ... with the Stormers standing head and shoulders above the other teams. And, I agree 100percent with interim Lions coach Johan Ackermann who said on Sunday that if the Stormers don’t win the title this year, it’s doubtful if they’ll ever win it.
Winning 14 out of 16 games is proof Allister Coetzee’s team are more interested in winning rugby matches than entertaining the fans and scoring tries.
Their defence has again stood out and now that they finished top of the standings and will play all their remaining games at Newlands means they’ve already got one hand on the trophy. They’ll be well rested by the time the semi-finals come around next weekend and I can’t see them losing to the Bulls, Crusaders, Sharks or Reds (and Chiefs) in the semis or the final, on home turf. The history of the competition tells us that whoever plays at home and faces a team that’s had to travel halfway around the world has got a huge advantage.
On top of that, the Stormers will be bolstered by the return of some key men for the playoffs, most notably Eben Etzebeth ... but it’s more than that, that makes the Capetonians heavy favourites to go all the way. They’ve had to soldier on this year without several influential figures, among them Schalk Burger, but they’ve still won on a regular basis and never looked for excuses. What’s impressive about the Stormers is that they simply get on with business.
The Bulls and Sharks have to travel to New Zealand and Australia respectively to face the Crusaders and Reds this weekend and that won’t be easy. And even if they did win, having to travel all the way back to South Africa (to face the Stormers) or going up against the Chiefs (in Hamilton) in the semifinals is a heavy workload.
The smart money is definitely on the Stormers.