Cape Town - The Stormers’ United Rugby Championship match against Connacht on Saturday will reveal a lot about the progress the side has made.
So far this year, the Capetonians have given South Africans the most to smile about as far as results are concerned.
While the Bulls have been the domestic kings over the last couple of seasons – winning two Currie Cup title, Super Rugby Unlocked, and going all the way to the final of the Rainbow Cup – it’s John Dobson’s side that have done the most, in what is still a young 2022.
They’ve beaten the Bulls at Fortress Loftus, they’ve outplayed the Sharks at Cape Town
Stadium and, most recently, they hammered the Lions at Emirates Airline Park.
Their four-match unbeaten run also includes a 20-20 draw against a Sharks team at Hollywoodbets Kings Park that was bursting at the seams with Springboks.
The Stormers are the top South African side on the overall log in eighth place, and the only SA side with a positive points difference, so it’s been a good run.
Perhaps better than their actual results, though, has been their performances.
While nobody can sit here and claim the Cape side to have been flawless, nobody can say that they haven’t made a helluva step-up either.
A big part of their success has been their defence.
Now, it’s not like that is an area that hasn’t been one of their sharpest weapons for some time, but the fact that it’s an area that has become almost underappreciated should do enough to show just how good they’ve been in other areas.
This year, the Stormers have finally made the leap from verbally expressing their desire to grow their attack to showing it.
They have been a constant threat in the wider channels and their outside backs have had no lack of action - something that couldn’t always be said in the recent past.
The fact that they could get the results they have over the last few weeks despite their front-row issues (thanks to injury) has made their run even better. Nobody could accuse them of any ‘overreliance’ on their scrum there.
But how will they go against the foreign sides?
While Connacht will naturally present different challenges, the weather should also be a good test.
The Stormers are expected to be met with heavy rain and strong winds in Galway, and the fact that they won’t have the luxury of spending a full week that side is anything but a positive. But it should serve as a good progress indicator nonetheless.
With the Stormers’ prop stocks having been on the thin side recently, their scrum hasn’t been the weapon it characteristically is.
But now, with things slightly better where the front row is concerned, the Cape Town outfit might be able to add the setpiece to their array of weapons, especially considering that they might not get the opportunity to wreak havoc down touch this weekend as well as they have recently.
So, while the weather might force the South Africans to keep things a bit tighter, their fixture against Connacht is one that should do a good job of showing just how far they’ve come in recent times.