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DHL Stormers 2016 season review:
The 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby season saw the DHL Stormers take some bold steps into a new era.
With a new format which featured 18 teams, four different conferences and a new management team of Head Coach Robbie Fleck, Forwards Coach Russell Winter and Defence Coach Paul Treu, the DHL Stormers topped Africa Conference One and qualified for the play-offs seeded third.
Fleck and his team pledged to play fearless rugby in a campaign which would see them pitted against teams from South Africa, Japan, Argentina and Australia, and they managed 10 wins from their 16 games with five defeats and a draw.
The season started with convincing victories against conference rivals the Vodacom Bulls and the Toyota Cheetahs, and they would end the regular season nine log points ahead of the team from Pretoria who were their nearest challengers in Africa Conference One as the DHL Stormers collected their fourth conference title in the last six years.
There were many talented young players who were exposed to Vodacom Super Rugby in 2016, with props JC Janse van Rensburg and JP Smith, locks Pieter-Steph du Toit, Chris van Zyl and JD Schickerling, loose forward Kobus van Dyk, scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, flyhalves Jean-Luc du Plessis and Brandon Thomson, centre Daniel du Plessis and outside backs Leolin Zas and Scott van Breda all making their DHL Stormers debut.
There were also some stalwarts who played their last DHL Stormers match in 2016, with veteran loose forward Schalk Burger (Saracens), scrumhalves Nic Groom (Northampton Saints) and Louis Schreuder (Koboto Spears), prop Vincent Koch (Saracens) and lock Jean Kleyn (Munster) all leaving the franchise at the end of the season.
All four games the DHL Stormers lost during the regular season (against Cell C Sharks, Waratahs, Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls) saw them claim bonus points for finishing within seven points of their opponents.
The regular season ended with four consecutive victories as they beat the Toyota Cheetahs a second time at DHL Newlands ahead of the June international break, and then claimed bonus-point victories against the Rebels and Force on their tour of Australia before returning to DHL Newlands where they ran in eight tries in a big win against the Kings to secure a home quarterfinal.
In their 15 regular season matches the DHL Stormers conceded just 28 tries, which was the least of any team in the competition, and managed to score 49 tries of their own.
The DHL Stormers had the best defensive line-out in the competition, stealing 24% of opposition ball and winning 86% of their own ball.
Having qualified for the play-offs as third seeds, the DHL Stormers hosted the Chiefs in their quarterfinal at DHL Newlands, but fell short against the two-time champions from Hamilton.
Fleck said that while it was disappointing to lose in the quarterfinal, there were many positives in the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign which bodes well for the franchise going forward.
“Obviously it is really disappointing and it is going to be a tough one to swallow, but for me as a coach it has been a great experience, I have had good leadership around me and the players have been fantastic in terms of their buy-in.
“I am certainly excited about what we can do as a group going forward.
“We brought through a lot of talented young players this season who now have a taste of what Vodacom Super Rugby is all about.
“We have learned a lot in this campaign as a squad and as management staff and we are very motivated to apply those lessons next year,” he said.
Fleck added that it is vital for the squad and management to build on what they achieved this season going forward.
“It takes time to build a team, a culture and a style of play, but we still managed to achieve the goals that we set ourselves at the start of the season by playing a home play-off match.
“We are determined to build on the base that we have created next year. Even though the quarterfinal against the Chiefs was a disappointment, there was a lot that we took from that game going forward, and we are looking forward to the challenge of playing against New Zealand teams next year,” said Fleck.
DHL Stormers Vodacom Super Rugby 2016 results:
DHL Stormers 33-9 Vodacom Bulls (DHL Newlands)
Toyota Cheetahs 10-20 DHL Stormers (Toyota Stadium)
DHL Stormers 13-18 Cell C Sharks (DHL Newlands)
DHL Stormers 33-9 Brumbies (DHL Newlands)
Jaguares 8-13 DHL Stormers (Estadio Jose Emalfitani)
DHL Stormers 46-19 Sunwolves (DHL Newlands)
Emirates Lions 29-22 DHL Stormers (Emirates Airline Park)
DHL Stormers 40-22 Reds (DHL Newlands)
DHL Stormers 30-32 Waratahs (DHL Newlands)
Sunwolves 17-17 DHL Stormers (Singapore National Stadium)
Vodacom Bulls 17-13 DHL Stormers (Loftus Versfeld)
DHL Stormers 31-24 Toyota Cheetahs (DHL Newlands)
Rebels 31-57 DHL Stormers (AAMI Park)
Force 3-22 DHL Stormers (nib Stadium)
DHL Stormers 52-24 Southern Kings (DHL Newlands)
DHL Stormers 21-60 Chiefs (DHL Newlands)
DHL Stormers injury report – July 27:
DHL Stormers flank Siya Kolisi has undergone surgery on his ankle and will be out of action for the next three months.
Kolisi sustained the Syndesmosis injury in the opening stages of the DHL Stormers’ Vodacom Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Chiefs at DHL Newlands.
Nizaam Carr’s shoulder injury will be monitored by the medical staff, and at this stage he is expected to be out for two weeks.
DHL Stormers co-captain Frans Malherbe has also been ruled out for three months due to a neck injury.