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