Sadly, heart­break and play­offs go hand in hand for the Storm­ers

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

BE­SIDES a semi-fi­nal win over the Waratahs at New­lands in 2010, the Storm­ers haven’t won any other Su­per Rugby play­off. JOHN GO­LIATH looks at some of the heart­break they have suf­fered over the years. 23 May, 1999: Storm­ers 18 High­landers 33 (semi-fi­nal, Cape Town) NEW­LANDS buzzed like never be­fore in 1999 when Bobby Skin­stad, pic­tured far right, and his Men in Black turned on the style in one of the Storm­ers’ most memorable cam­paigns.

De­spite los­ing their last match of the reg­u­lar sea­son against the Cats, they beat the ta­ble-top­ping Reds, Sharks, Cru­saders, Chiefs and Blues in to fin­ish sec­ond on the over­all stand­ings. They played an ex­cit­ing brand of rugby, and the av­er­age home at­ten­dance of­ten ex­ceeded 40 000. How­ever, a threat of a strike by the play­ers over­shad­owed the build-up to their semi-fi­nal against the High­landers. The Ki­wis were in­spired by a bril­liant per­for­mance from half­backs Byron Kelle­her and Tony Brown. After a cri­sis meet­ing the morn­ing of the match averted a po­ten­tial strike, the Storm­ers didn’t have that same spark and lost their way against the vis­i­tors. 15 May, 2004: Cru­saders 27 Storm­ers 16 (semi-fi­nal, Christchurch) AFTER miss­ing out on the semis in the pre­vi­ous three sea­sons, and hav­ing fin­ished ninth in 2003, the Storm­ers were back in the last four. They fin­ished the cam­paign in third, and as the top South African side.

They beat the Blues 51-23 in Auck­land, in a match that will be fondly re­mem­bered for Hen­drik Ger­ber’s mas­sive hit on Car­los Spencer. But they lost to the Cru­saders in their last tour match, and came home to face the Sharks in their last league clash.

The Cape side then had to re­turn to New Zealand for their semi-fi­nal against the Cru­saders. The Storm­ers were com­pet­i­tive in the first half, but ran out of gas in the sec­ond. 2 July, 2011: Storm­ers 10 Cru­saders 29 (semi-fi­nal, Cape Town) IT was the year when the 15-team for­mat was in­tro­duced for the first time.

After the dis­ap­point­ment of los­ing in the 2010 fi­nal against the Bulls in Soweto, the Storm­ers fin­ished sec­ond on the over­all stand­ings and six points clear of the Sharks in the South African con­fer­ence.

Storm­ers tal­is­man, No 8 Duane Ver­meulen, pic­tured far left, was a po­tent mix of brute force and skill and gave them plenty of mo­men­tum.

How­ever, he suf­fered a tour­na­mentend­ing in­jury in their last league match against the Chee­tahs.

The Cape side weren’t the same with­out him in the semi against the Cru­saders as Dan Carter de­liv­ered a mas­ter­ful per­for­mance. 28 July, 2012: Storm­ers 19 Sharks 26, (semi-fi­nal, Cape Town) THE STORM­ERS were the best team in 2012, and fin­ished top of the over­all log, two points ahead of the Chiefs.

They also fin­ished seven points clear of the Bulls in the South African stand­ings, and were helped along with a bye be­fore the semi-fi­nals.

They had to wait for the re­sults of the two play­offs to de­ter­mine who they would face at New­lands in the semi-fi­nal.

They ended up host­ing the Sharks, who trav­elled to Bris­bane to face the Reds, be­fore re­turn­ing to South Africa.

How­ever, the Storm­ers – who were again with­out Ver­meulen – and they looked like they were the ones who had been trav­el­ling halfway around the world.

The Sharks’ tac­ti­cal kick­ing was su­perb in their vic­tory to earn them­selves a re­turn trip to New Zealand for the fi­nal, where they lost to the Chiefs. 20 June, 2015: Storm­ers 19 Brumbies 39 (play­off qual­i­fier, Cape Town) THE Cape side started with a re­build­ing phase last year and al­though they weren’t quite as dom­i­nant as they were in 2011 and 2012, they man­aged to clinch the South African con­fer­ence ti­tle. After the heart­break of 2010, 2011 and 2012, it was Al­lis­ter Coet­zee’s last chance to win the Su­per Rugby ti­tle with the Storm­ers, be­fore leav­ing for Ja­pan at the end of the cam­paign. But his­tory would re­peat it­self when Ver­meulen was again ruled out with a neck in­jury, while veteran Schalk Burger with­drew due to in­jury on the eve of the match. The Storm­ers were ab­so­lutely man­han­dled by the Brumbies in the phys­i­cal stakes and loose for­wards Scott Fardy and David Po­cock were un­matched at the break­down.

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