Can Stormers overcome abysmal playoff record?

Herman Mostert
Herman Mostert

A 12.5% win-ratio in playoff games...

That's what the Stormers have to contend with when they host the Chiefs in their Super Rugby quarter-final at Newlands on Saturday!

A solitary win from eight Super Rugby playoff games is all the Stormers have to show for their efforts in the event’s history.

Even worse - and despite Newlands being the best supported ground in South Africa - it has hardly proved a fortress for the home side, as five of those eight defeats have come at the famous old ground.

However, Robbie Fleck and his charges are confident of bringing about a reversal in fortunes this weekend.

The Stormers head coach addressed the issue at a press conference on Monday, saying: “We’ve struggled in quarter-finals, we haven’t won them. But this is a new team, a new campaign. We’ve just got to focus on us and not worry about the pressure of winning a quarter-final. Everyone brings it up - that the Stormers don’t get through - but we’ll get through this time. That’s got to be our focus. That’s what we believe in as a group.”

Belief will no doubt be critical, especially after what transpired in 2016 when the Stormers got a harsh reminder of how great the hurdle is in reality.

The Capetonians had faced no New Zealand opposition in the build-up to the playoffs before being humiliated 60-21 by the Chiefs at Newlands.

That result put things into perspective.

The Stormers were not playoff material and hard work needed to be done before the 2017 season when fixtures against Kiwi sides - and none against the woeful Australians - were the order of the day.
 
It appeared as though the hard work behind the scenes had paid off by the time the Chiefs returned to Newlands in early April: a 34-26 win for the Stormers was a remarkable turnaround from the previous season and suddenly the Capetonians were punted as title contenders.

But what transpired in subsequent weeks quickly put a dampener on the festivities of gaining revenge over the Chiefs.

A 29-16 home loss to the Lions was followed by crushing blows on tour in New Zealand where the wheels well and truly came off.

Crushing defeats at the hands of the Crusaders (57-24), Highlanders (57-14) and Hurricanes (41-22) again put things into perspective: the Stormers were not yet playoff contenders.

While there have been promising signs with ball in hand, the team’s defensive frailties have been badly exposed and despite finishing the regular season with three wins on the trot, I can't help but feel that the Stormers will enter the playoff phase with a degree of trepidation.

Yes, they comfortably won their Africa 1 Conference, but that came about in part due to the woefully out of sorts Bulls, Cheetahs and Sunwolves.

The Chiefs travel to Newlands despite boasting 14 more log points - and two more wins - than their hosts.

It paints a bleak picture of a lopsided tournament format and the reduction in the number of teams from next year cannot come soon enough.

The Stormers should take heart from the fact that they upset the Chiefs in early season - and for that reason cannot be written off - but they will head into Saturday’s clash as underdogs.

The home side's chances of winning are greater than 12.5% - but it will take some effort to halt the Chiefs twice in one season...

Stormers’ Super rugby playoff record:

1999 - lost to Otago Highlanders (33-18 in semi-finals, Cape Town)
2004 - lost to Crusaders (27-16 in semi-finals, Christchurch)
2010 - beat Waratahs (25-6 in semi-finals, Cape Town)
2010 - lost to Bulls (25-17 in final, Soweto)
2011 - lost to Crusaders (29-10 in semi-finals, Cape Town)
2012 - lost to Sharks (26-19 in semi-finals, Cape Town)
2015 - lost to Brumbies (39-19 in qualifier, Cape Town)
2016 - lost to Chiefs (60-21 in quarter-finals, Cape Town)

Herman Mostert works at Sport24, is a struggling golfer and enjoys tennis...

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Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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