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Stormers’ URC success a fairytale, but no fluke

Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff lifts off the trophy as his team celebrate winning the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. Photi: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff lifts off the trophy as his team celebrate winning the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. Photi: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published Jun 20, 2022


Cape Town - Going into their United Rugby Championship final against the Bulls, John Dobson's unit were on a 10-match winning streak. Equally impressive is the fact that they had beaten the Bulls twice before this season - home and away - so they have had the Bulls' number firmly tucked in their pockets.

The Stormers and the Bulls' northsouth rivalry needs no introduction. Whenever these two teams meet, anticipation always mounts. So, the all-South African decider really was a dream final.

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What adds to that even more is the start that the Stormers and the rest of the SA teams had to the competition.

Nobody would have predicted this, there was simply no way given the woes the SA contingent experienced when they were first introduced to their European competition.

When the Stormers returned to SA for their home run of matches, things changed. They built momentum and started stringing the positive results together.

The Cape side were so good that their only defeat at home came against the Lions in December. Since then, there was only one other defeat, a narrow 19-17 defeat to Connacht in Galway in February.

That takes some doing.

The background drama that the Stormers had to deal with, while still somehow delivering on the field, was so well-documented that there really isn't much need to rehash it. It was tough times and uncertainty was all round.

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Speaking after their 18-13 victory over the Bulls at a wet Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, Dobson spoke about that dark time, a time where he had to hear over a phone call that there were talks of them getting pulled from the competition and replaced by the Cheetahs.

That was before their game against Benetton in September, and what a turnaround it's been.

The Stormers have been one of the teams of the season.

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They have grown their attacking game so greatly that what used to be one of the most frustrating things about them - their attack and them not using it to full effect - has become one of their biggest assets.

They have soldiered through injury setbacks that saw them almost entirely depleted at hooker.

They have pulled off wins with spirited comebacks or by just staying in there to come away with the result despite struggles.

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They defeated a strong Ulster side in the semi-final in Cape Town to book their spot in the final against the Bulls before showing that they were the better team against the Pretoria side by outplaying them for the third time.

In the final, the Stormers again had their fair share of issues in the opening 30 minutes, but they produced a rugby masterclass in the second half to fight back from being 7 -3 down at halftime to go on and win the first-ever United Rugby Championship final.

The Stormers' story has been a special one, fairytale-like, if you will. And while their season is good enough to make the pages of fiction, there is no fabrication in their success.