Ross Roche
Senior sports writer
3 minute read
3 May 2022
4:14 pm

Stormers building ‘something special’ after URC turnaround

Ross Roche

The Stormers have sealed their spot in the URC playoffs, which is an unbelievable turnaround from where they found themselves back in December.

Damian Willemse and Stormers teammates during their URC match against Leinster last week. Picture: Gallo Images

The Stormers have displayed similarities to the fabled Phoenix, rising from the ashes over the past year to become South Africa’s form team in their first season of the United Rugby Championship (URC).

It was an average 2021 season for the union as the Stormers finished second on the SA Rainbow Cup log, comfortably behind the Bulls, while Western Province ended fourth on the Currie Cup log and lost in the semifinals.

Then in October last year, just as the Stormers were starting their maiden URC campaign, the South African Rugby Union took administrative control of the Western Province Rugby Football Union due to gross mismanagement.

It was not an ideal moment for the Stormers to be plunged into a mini-crisis with the side on tour overseas in the URC.

On-field struggles

Despite coach John Dobson, and captain at the time Salmaan Moerat both batting away questions saying that the team was only focused on the rugby and were putting that noise at home out of their heads, their results on the field seemed to differ.

The Stormers picked up only one win and one draw on the road against two losses, but it was their first home match in early December where they were comfortably beaten by the Lions that the alarm bells must surely have started to ring.

After five games this left them languishing in 14th place on the 16-team log and a long way from the URC playoff places, as well as qualification for next seasons European Rugby Champions Cup.

However, when the Stormers resumed service in January it was almost a completely different team, bolstered by their returning Boks who had been missing for the first four rounds.

Since then they have gone on an incredible run of 10 wins, one draw and one loss, and they are currently on a seven-match winning streak, lifting themselves to fourth in the URC standings.

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Munster and the Sharks, the two teams above them on the log, are both on the same amount of points and have much tougher final pool games than the Stormers do, which means the Western Cape side have a great chance of ending second after the final round.

They have sealed their spot in the URC knockout stages and in next season’s ERCC, with a pool match still to play, which is an unbelievable turnaround from where they found themselves back in December.

Current captain Steven Kitshoff said it best when questioned about their rise after this past weekend’s win over Leinster.

“Just the maturity of this team and the way the guys actually stood up in tough times, with everyone almost writing off Western Province rugby and the Stormers,” Kitshoff said.

“For them to actually come through and put in performances week in and week out, and actually go seven games undefeated, I think this group of players, management and administrators have stood up and said we are backing this and going to go all the way.

“So we should be proud and I am really happy to have been a part of something special.”