Finally, we come to the back three, the wings and fullback. The Cape has always produced a plethora of gifted wingbacks and this year it is no exception. Add to the mix the precocious talent of a young Mr Taute, and we have the making of a sublime back three.
Gio Aplon and Joe Pieterson seem to have been in the side since the year dot, Bryan Habana has been around for a couple of seasons and just starting to find that awesome form again, recent import Gerhard van den Heever has been solid on the wing, and in Damian de Allande, we unearthed another nugget during the Currie Cup.
This section rounds off the Stormers squad contenders, and for once it has been a pleasure opening the pages of the new season, because at last we can go into a new season, as can the other sides, full of passion, hope and confidence that the Stormers can win the title.
Enjoy the season, it is going to be a great one. I am truly sad not to see the once mighty Lions roar this year, but let’s hope that the Southern Kings do not let South Africa down. Let the best team win, and see you all on the far side.
ROLL ON Super Rugby 2013!
Gio Giaan Aplon
HEIGHT 175 cm
WEIGHT 78 Kg
BIRTH DATE 6 October 1982 – Age 30
DHL Stormers Vodacom Super Rugby – 2007
This is the Stormers ‘go to’ man in the backs. The heart of an elephant and the agility of a Springbok. Simply one of the best. Unfortunately, alongside Brent Russell (The Pocket Rocket), will, I fear, go down in the annals of history as a ‘what if’ man. In South Africa we are obsessed with size, so much so, it is often to the detriment of talent. Aplon is a player of remarkable talent and someone who the Kaapies cherish as their own.
Another very good season for the Stormers in 2012 with a blistering turn of speed and great hands Aplon, who has also played 7’s with great success, is a player that has both the ‘X’ factor and vision. He is never one to shirk his responsibilities, tackling way above his weight and has a very good technique coupled with bravery and natural timing. He is a versatile backline player, an elusive runner and can spot a gap from a mile. He provides cover at fullback and at wing.
60 Appearances in a Stormers jersey makes Gio a very senior player but the 15 international caps just don’t do a player of his ability justice. Gio will play on the wing, but is equally adept at fullback if required.
HEIGHT 180 cm
WEIGHT 94 Kg
BIRTH DATE 12 June 1983 – Age 29
Golden Lions Super Rugby – 2004
Blue Bulls 2005 – 2009
DHL Stormers – 2010 -
Form is temporary, class is permanent. This is definitely the case for Bryan Habana. Two seasons of indifferent form ended with form coming flooding back to show his pure class. A thoroughbred, and one that still has a couple of years in him before he is put out to pasture.
All Stormers supporters hope that he will be able to carry his recent form into the new season, as there is nothing better than to see the Bok flyer galloping down the touch line ball in hand to dot down for another try to increase his Super Rugby personal tally past the current 265 point mark.
106 Starts in Super Rugby and 83 Internationals under his belt, together with Jean de Villiers and Gio Aplon, has the experience to lead any team to a trophy.
Mourad Boudjellal, owner of Toulon has his sights set on Habana – Not before the seasons is out, mate!
HEIGHT 189 cm
WEIGHT 96 Kg
BIRTH DATE 25 November 1991 – Age 21
Western Province – 2012 -
DHL Stormers Vodacom Super Rugby – 2013
He made his first team debut for Western Province during the 2012 Vodacom Cup, in their game against Pampas XV, after which he made another 2 appearances for Western Province. He was then included in the Western Province Currie Cup squad, the highlight being picked against the Sharks for the final at Kings Park.
According to John Dobson, coach of the Western Province Under 21 side, who said of Damian, who only started playing rugby at the age of 15, ”Where he is amazing is that while he has got this massive size at 95 kgs and over 1.8 metres tall, but he has got one of the biggest boots at the Union, he is one of the best passers at the Union and he has got the most unbelievable feet.
“To my mind he decides if he wants to play for South Africa or not”.
Big, powerful, with a massive boot, De Allende has the potential to play for many years for the Stormers.
Damian de Allende represented the Ikey Tigers in the 2012 Varsity Cup.
Gerhard Jacobus van den Heever
HEIGHT 190 cm
WEIGHT 94 Kg
BIRTH DATE 13 April 1989 – Age 23
Bulls Super Rugby – 2009 – 2011
DHL Stormers – 2012 -
15 Games for the Stormers outfit in 2012 (mostly from the bench), somehow Gerhard didn’t seem to light up the stage as he did with the Bulls in the previous seasons. Another player with lightening speed and size to boot, there is no reason that he won’t improve in 2013. Towards the back-end of the season, his form certainly seemed to be making a return during the Currie Cup, and a decent lay-off should ensure that he is fit and raring to go.
Having just watched the try against the Lions whilst still in a Blue Bulls jersey, proves that this lad has all the right credentials to make wing his own. An incredible turn of speed, a natural ability to read the game and a wonderful goose-step left the Lions standing and if he can regain that form, will leave many more teams in the same position. All this before doing the same thing to the Lions in 2012 for the Stormers.
Johan Christiaan (Joe) Pietersen
HEIGHT 180 cm
WEIGHT 80 Kg
BIRTH DATE 18 May 1984 – Age 28
DHL Stormers Vodacom Super Rugby – 2006
Whether from the bench or when starting, like Peter Grant, Joe has the heart of a lion and will never let the side down. Seen by many as a ‘just not quite there man’, he has made the last line of defence his own in so many matches. Solid as a rock under the high ball, perhaps his one fault over the 2012 season has been his kicking out of hand. This did improve during the season and we were witness to some great rugby at times starting from a solid take at the back by the little maestro.
Again, as with Grant, those who scoff, do so at their own peril. We’ll keep him, thank you very much. He is Mr Reliable! With the inclusion of Jaco Taute into the fold, Joe Pietersen may well find himself on the bench for a lot of the season but I cannot think of a better ‘go to’ man when required to come off the bench.
HEIGHT 187 cm
WEIGHT 95 Kg
BIRTH DATE 21 March 1991 – Age 21
Golden Lions – 2010 – 2012
DHL Stormers – 2013 -
Finally, our second coup of the season. Jaco Taute joins the clan at the point where they have a real opportunity of going all the way. A player with 30 Super Rugby caps and 3 internationals under his belt at only 21, is proof enough that he is another with the fabled ‘X’ factor.
Perhaps not able to play at his very best for the Lions, who found themselves on the back foot for much of the 2012 season, when given the chance he certainly lit the stage. A natural ball player, he is equally at home at the back or in the centre.
An impressive portfolio boasts: Currie Cup debut at 18, Super Rugby debut at 19, Junior Springboks at the Under 20 Junior World Championships in 2012 and the Springboks proper at the age of 21.
Injury has haunted him, having lost a large amount of the 2012 season to a serious shoulder reconstruction, after damaging it in the match against Western Force and which kept him out for 4 months.
So, thats it! Thats the Stormers in a teacup – or a nutshell, perhaps. It only leaves me to say that 2013 should be a great season for most of the South African franchises, with all, bar the Southern Kings, having a real chance at capturing the title. Super Rugby brings out the best in the rugby supporters, nowhere more so than on Rugby-Talk. Passion, loyalty and sheer bloody-mindedness mean for some great and feisty blogging, but ultimately we all doff our caps to the team that wins and congratulate the game of rugby to which we have come to grow so much respect for.
My only complaint, perhaps, is too many games, just to please the sports channels, and to make sure the directors can retire secure in the knowledge that they won’t run out of gas for their super yachts, cruising the Med, but, still, a festival that delights like no other.
So, now I wait with baited breath for 14 February 2013, to bathe my wife in roses as I say good bye to marriage and hello to rugby bachelorhood starting on the 15th for the next number of months. A time in which my family must go out and forage for themselves, keep the home fires going and me in a healthy supply of beer as I struggle to understand the injustices of the international referee. Because once I have done that, I am confident that I will be able to crack the enigma that is “understanding a woman”, thus solving the world’s problems.