Last year was almost surreal for the DHL Stormers when the Cape Town side were crowned champions in the inaugural season of the United Rugby Championship and were the winners of the South African Shield.
Many only expected them to manage the top eight, with qualification for the Heineken Cup even being considered an overachievement at the time. But not only did they obviously better this, it’s now set a bit of a precedent on expectations for the current season.
So as we approach the final few rounds over the next month, I look back over the season so far and consider whether history will indeed be repeating itself come May 27th.
A big similarity year on year
Right now the table is very similar to this time last season with Stormers currently in second behind Leinster. Moreover,
The Stormers also retained the South African Shield with a recent win over SA rivals Sharks, edging them out 29-23 in Cape Town. The other comparison to last season is how unexpected this also was and while this is simply looking at patterns, it does seem a good footing for Stormers to build on ahead of the playoffs.
It’s hard to separate the top two
The Stormers of course have a Leinster-based challenge in the way of the title and while the table is similar in terms of position, Leinster haven’t lost a game this season and are already more points better off with matches to spare.
Somewhat ironically, the last game between the two sides (just recently) ended up a 22-22 stalemate. The Stormers were leading the game at half time though and in the end fought back for a deserved draw – so there’s no denying the competitive ability or talent here.
The uncertainty of the playoffs
While having a playoff place confirmed, as last year shows, predicting the results of this part of the competition can be tricky for anyone and it’s typically a bit of a lottery. On paper you’d say it’s Leinster’s to lose with their winning run, but the Stormers’ 18-game unbeaten home form is undeniably impressive. However, for neutrals this only adds to the excitement.
A bright future for the DHL Stormers
Whatever happens it can be hard to argue that the Stormers’ season hasn’t been a success already. With silverware already added to the trophy cabinet, the astonishing winning run we mentioned earlier and playoff and Heineken Cup qualification secured, there’s plenty for the Stormers fans to the be happy about.
Things look set to get even better soon as well, with the side securing anchor tenancy of the Cape Town Stadium for the foreseeable, plus John Dobson signing a new coaching deal with the promise of further investment, it really does seem the only way is up for these greats of the Western Cape.
Watch this space for updates in the General News category on Running Wolf’s Rant.
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