James Mortimer 01.Aug.2012Getty Images
The back-to-back South African Conference champions finished with an Investec Super Rugby record 14 wins from the regular season, while completing the campaign as the best defensive outfit for the second straight year.
Throughout the year questions were asked of the Stormers attack, as they became the first Super Rugby Finals Series qualifier in history to not record a regular season four-try bonus point, while they were ranked bottom of the table in terms of tries scored (28) through the year.
While there may have been complaints that the Stormers defensive brilliance overwhelmed any true competency on offence, the reality is that for most of the season, the Cape Town based franchise strangled the life out of all comers.
Matched with a powerful pack, and continued new players coming through the excellent Western Province rugby system, and the future looks bright, even though coach Allister Coetzee said his players were cut by the loss.
"It was very disappointing for us and I have never seen players as cut up as the guys were in the change room afterwards,” he said.
He said that the Stormers were still a side on the improve, a statement that many will hope is true, as the team has now reached three straight semi-finals, with only one failed final attempt to their credit.
Will they be able to maintain their strong record over three years into a fourth?
"I would like to take the emotion out of this by reminding everyone that we are one of three sides that have improved this season and haven’t regressed," he said.
"The others are the Sharks and the Chiefs. I think we made a step in the right direction, so I am pleased with the season. You have to give credit to the Sharks. They played well and they deserved the win.
“They put us under pressure, particularly in the first half, and we didn’t respond well to that pressure. But I still believe in what we are doing, and a season record that shows just three losses in 17 starts reflects that. I know standards are very high in Cape Town, and I respect that. We’ve just got to become more clinical with ball in hand and learn to have patience.
Many felt the Stormers had their chances towards the end of the match, but were unable to create the approriate killer blow, which may have been indicative of a neglected attacking template.
“In this match in the end it was down to the Sharks taking the chances that came their way and us not," Coetzee said.
"One of their tries came off a scrum move and was really good, but the other try they scored was from a kick that we never fielded.”