Stormers exit Super Rugby with a whimper
Garrin Lambley - Sport24 Editor
Cape Town - The Stormers became the first South African team to be officially eliminated from 2018 Super Rugby playoff contention when they went down with a whimper 25-14 to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
READ: SA Super Rugby playoff picture: Sharks alive, Stormers buried
The match thankfully clashed with the Uruguay v Portugal Soccer World Cup Round of 16 showdown which offered sports fans an alternative to the debacle which unfolded - from a Stormers point of view - at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani.
This is the sixth Super Rugby tournament in the current 15-team format.
Having started out as Super 10, the tournament then increased to Super 12, then Super 14, then Super 15 (between 2011-2015), then to Super 18 in 2016 and 2017, before reverting to Super 15 this year.
In the five previous Super 15 editions, the Stormers have won the following number of pool matches each year:
2011 - 12
2012 - 14
2013 - 9
2014 - 7
2015 - 10
With a single match remaining in the 2018 campaign (at home against the Sharks on Saturday, July 7 at 17:15), the Stormers boast a meagre five victories, making this their worst Super 15 season ever.
Those five victories have all come at home - against the Blues, Bulls, Jaguares, Rebels and Reds - representing a worrying on-the-road trend for Robbie Fleck's men.
The Stormers are currently rock bottom of the SA Conference, tied on points with the Bulls, who have a game in hand over their Cape rivals.
Should the Stormers by hook or by crook finish ahead of the Bulls, it would still represent their worst SA Conference finishing position - ever.
In the five previous final SA Conference standings, the Stormers have never ended lower than third.
2011 - 1st
2012 - 1st
2013 - 3rd
2014 - 3rd
2015 - 1st
For a team that promised so much pre-season, 2018 will go down a horror show for the Stormers.
For a union that contends year in, year out at Under-19, Under-21 and Varsity Cup levels, and annually provides the majority of the Junior Springboks for the World Rugby U20 Championship, the depth is there, it's just not being translated to Super Rugby level.
Is it therefore a coaching issue?
Do Director of Rugby Gert Smal and coach Fleck have to bear the brunt of the criticism?
Injuries are no excuse either as every team has to deal with them throughout the course of the season.
The Stormers' 'faithful' has given them their continued support from the stands, the team simply hasn't delivered on the field.