5 Stormers who grew in 2016
Cape Town - 2016 ended in disappointing fashion for the Stormers - that 60-21 thrashing at the hands of the Chiefs set to haunt Newlands for a while.
The regular season had seen the Capetonians top Africa Conference 1 and finish a single point behind the Lions in the South African Group, yet the lack of competition against the New Zealand sides came back to haunt coach Robbie Fleck and his men.
It is not yet known whether Fleck will be in charge of the Stormers next season, but one favour he has done for the Stormers is show a faith in young talent.
There were a number of young Stormers who experienced breakthrough seasons in 2016, and that will almost certainly benefit Fleck or whoever the new man in charge is next season.
Here are some youngsters who grew at the Stormers in 2016:
Jean-Luc du Plessis
Age - 22
Du Plessis started the season as the third-choice flyhalf but was thrown into the deep end after serious injuries to Robert du Preez and Kurt Coleman. It didn't take the left-booted playmaker long to show that he has the potential to be the complete package. He has a good kicking game, is solid defensively and he appears to have the instinct needed to control things from the pivot with his distribution and positioning. Injury in the final game of regular season ruled him out of the quarter-final, and his absence was felt in the loss to the Chiefs.
Age - 20
Zas started the season like a house on fire and perhaps slowed down towards the end, but the fact that he was an ever-present for the Stormers throughout their campaign and at such a young age bodes well for the future. He is lightning fast and has shown that he can be a lethal finisher, but like many others his defence and positioning on defence needs a lot of work. Still, a haul of 8 tries from 15 games is impressive.
Age - 21
Schickerling's story is a remarkable one. Having come scarily close to being paralysed following that horrific neck injury, the second-rower completed his comeback in 2016. Lock is a tough position to crack at the Stormers with Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit in the mix, but Schickerling still notched up 13 caps this season, though most of them came from the bench. His lineout work remains a strength and he will be looking to build on this season in 2017.
Age - 23
A bit older than the others, but it was certainly a breakthrough season for Notshe. Fleck said at the start of the season that he wanted Notshe to be a specialist No 6, and his form in that position earned him a Springbok call-up against Ireland. He didn't get onto the park for a Test debut, but the boost he received from the recognition could be seen in his play. Notshe was one of maybe a couple of Stormers players who emerged from that disastrous loss to the Chiefs with any credibility.
Age - 41
Obviously Fleck is not a player, but Fleck was thrown into the deep end as much as anyone else this season when he was the late replacement for the outgoing Eddie Jones. While things may not have worked out for the Stormers in the end, it would be a raw deal for Fleck if he was not given another year to build on what was started in 2016.