Stormers the best of South Africa
Greg Growden and ESPN Staff
February 14, 2013
Peter Grant kicked 34 penalty goals and made 4203 kick metres in Super Rugby 2012. © Getty Images
The Stormers seem certain to enjoy another strong campaign, but Greg Growden wonders if they need more than defensive strength if they are not to fall short again.
Last season: semi-finals, first in South African Conference; the Stormers topped the home-and-away ladder on the back of a brilliant defence that saw them concede only 254 points and 21 tries. But they scored only 28 tries, and seemed ultimately to pay a high price for Allistair Coetzee's pragmatic but conservative game plan.
Key man: Peter Grant fits perfectly the Stormers' structure: 34 penalty goals and 4203 kick metres in 2012 tell you all you need to know about the fly-half 's strengths. He also scored two tries and tallied four try assists to further illustrate his importance to a side that adopted a tight game plan and scored only 28 tries last season. Conversely, 37 missed tackles in a defence-oriented team is a worrying stat.
Rising star: Ruan Botha joined the Stormers from the washed-up Lions, moving as a member of South Africa' Under-20 team that won the 2012 IRB Junior World Championship. He may struggle for game time with Springboks second-rowers Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker ahead of him in the pecking order, but he has all the attributes we have come to expect from South African locks.
Season preview: The signing of Elton Jantjies and Jaco Taute on loan from the Lions gives the Stormers an attacking dimension they seemed to lack in 2012, but they do not seem to be the final cogs of a championship-winning team. The Stormers retain a powerful squad, but open away to the Bulls and the Sharks before their first home fixture against the Chiefs, meaning their campaign could be dead before it's underway - particularly if they are to claim only two bonus points again.
Greg Growden's verdict: The huff-and-puff merchants of the tournament, for so long promising so much but so often failing to deliver. In recent seasons they have at least showed their true worth, and they look the best of the South African crop. Expect a big season from Schalk Burger, as long as he does not maim himself or someone else. Luring Elton Jantjies from the Lions will help, but their best asset remains their defence. No-one can get through them.
Tip: First in South African conference. Finish: Fourth overall.
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