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Super Rugby preview: Stormers

12th February 2013 19:01

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Schalk Burger Stormers training 2013

Raring to go: Schalk Burger

With the new Super Rugby season looming large on the horizon we take a look at each of the 15 competitors. Next up, the Stormers!

Last year: They kicked off their campaign with a 39-26 win over the Hurricanes but that result came at a cost when captain Schalk Burger sustained a knee injury which kept him on the sidelines for the rest of the season. The rest of the campaign was characterised by excellent defence but despite that, they failed to secure a try-scoring bonus point in any of their games. Their biggest win came in Round Seven when they beat the Highlanders 21-6 in Dunedin but they came crashing down to earth when they suffered their first loss of the season - 31-24 to the Crusaders - the following week. Overall 2012 was another disappointing year for coach Allister Coetzee and his charges, who secured a home semi-final for the second successive season, but, like 2011, failed to reach the final. After finishing in pole position at the end of the league phase, the Stormers - who boasted the tournament's best defensive record - lost in their own backyard to the Sharks in the semi-finals.

This year: The Stormers' face tricky assignments against the Bulls, Sharks and, defending champions, the Chiefs in their first three matches. Those first two matches are both away and can define how they fare during the rest of the competition. There is also a four-match tour to Australasia but this is no daunting task as the Stormers are amongst the best travelers in the tournament. The acquisition of some of the Lions' players - particularly Jaco Taute and Elton Jantjies - on loan will be a tremendous boost. Much will also depend on the experience of senior players like Schalk Burger, Jean De Villiers and Bryan Habana who are all yearning for silverware. Being knocked out in the semi-finals in 2012 was a bitter pill to swallow and the men from the Cape are desperate to clinch a place in the final - and win it - in 2013.

Players to watch: Stormers captain Schalk Burger's absence in 2012 means he will be keen to make up for lost time this season. There's still uncertainty on when exactly he returns, as he has not made a full recovery yet but when he does expect him to make a big impact. Fellow loose forward Duane Vermeulen is always in the thick of the action and was one of the standout performers during Western Province's triumphant Currie Cup campaign, last year, and on the Springboks' end-of-year tour to Europe. In the back-line Bryan Habana is always a handful with ball in hand and the Springboks' record try-scorer will be determined to go out on a high as he departs for Toulon at the end of the campaign.

Noteworthy signings: Jaco Taute, Elton Jantjies, Pat Cilliers, Michael Rhodes, Martin Bezuidenhout (All Lions)

Noteworthy losses: Jebb Sinclair (London Irish)

Prospects: The Stormers will be amongst frontrunners - along with the Bulls and the Sharks - for the top spot in the South African conference. They should qualify for the semi-finals again but if they want to reach the final they must improve on attack. Their conservative style did not win over the neutrals and with exciting backs like, Taute, Jantjies, Habana, De Villiers, Juan de Jong and Gio Aplon in their ranks there's no reason why they shouldn't be scoring more tries and winning matches with bonus-points.

Fixtures:

22 February: v Bulls - Away
2 March: v Sharks - Away
9 March: v Chiefs - Home
23 March: v Brumbies - Home
30 March: v Crusaders - Home
6 April: v Cheetahs - Away
13 April: v Sharks - Home
26 April: v Hurricanes - Away
3 May: v Blues - Away
11 May: v Waratahs - Away
17 May: Rebels - Away
25 May: v Reds - Home
1 June: v Kings - Home
29 June: v Cheetahs - Home
6 July: v Kings - Away
13 July: v Bulls - Home

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PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Crusaders1651
3Sharks1650
4Brumbies1645
5Chiefs1644
6Highlanders1642
7Hurricanes1641
8Western Force1640
9Bulls1638
10Blues1637
11Stormers1632
12Lions1631
13Reds1628
14Cheetahs1624
15Melbourne Rebels1621
Australian Conference
Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Brumbies1645
3Western Force1640
4Reds1628
5Melbourne Rebels1621
New Zealand Conference
Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Crusaders1651
2Chiefs1644
3Highlanders1642
4Hurricanes1641
5Blues1637
South African Conference
Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Sharks1650
2Bulls1638
3Stormers1632
4Lions1631
5Cheetahs1624