Towards the end of last year, wonder boy flanker Luke Watson had to make a vital decision about his bright future.

The South African under-21 captain was coming to the end of his contract with the Sharks and his form in the Currie Cup was so good that he had every union in the country bidding for his services.

He chose Western Province (and thus the Stormers) because "they play the best rugby in the country".

The Sharks were furious; the Bulls were indignant because they were just about to win their third successive Currie Cup; and the rest were not so disappointed because they had never really expected to triumph over South Africa's Hollywood province.

The Capetonians have a tradition of attracting the country's glamour boys and have played a Barbarians style of rugby that pleases the spectators although it does not always get the results.

And while they can turn on the magic to win by 50 points at Eden Park, they can then be dreadful at Newlands in losing to a second-string Hurricanes team.

In South Africa they are nicknamed the "show ponies", partly because of the designer haircuts of their pretty boys and partly because they can only "perform" when a favourable mood strikes them.

When Western Province decided to re-name themselves the Stormers in 1998, they purposely chose the colour black for their jerseys to annoy their chief rivals of the time, the Natal Sharks, who had always played in black.

The Stormers have always loved to be hated. They have thrived on being different to other South African teams and have almost always played a different style of rugby to their countrymen.

As Watson says: "I chose the Stormers because they play a brand of rugby of which you can be proud.

"They are a team going places and I want to be associated with winners."

You can imagine how well that went down in Durban, where the Sharks had had their worst season of the modern era.

But who could blame Watson, a sensational flanker who felt he could create something special by forming a loose trio with Schalk Burger, the World Player of the Year for 2004, and No 8 Joe van Niekerk, who came close to that honour in 2003. 

These guys are pretty boys and they like to look the part off the field, but they know how to roll up their sleeves to win ball on the ground.

Behind them, the Stormers boast the current Springbok midfield of de Wet Barry and Marius Joubert; veteran Breyton Paulse on one wing and another precocious upstart, Jean de Villiers, on the other.

Startling backs and "poser" loose forwards a la Bob Skinstad are proud Stormers traditions, but on the downside they also have an unfortunate tradition of failing to produce a flyhalf who can take them all the way, or a tight five that is more than adequate.

Actually each of their two flyhalves possesses one of those qualities - but neither has both.

Chris Rossouw is a gutsy player but is a journeyman at best, while Gaffie du Toit is wonderfully talented but his legs turn to jelly when the pressure is cranked up.

The Stormers are likely to contest the playoffs again, they finished third last season, and, if they are having a good hair day, could advance further.


VITAL STATS


Titles: 0


Finals: 0


Best finish: 2nd round robin, beaten in semifinals 1999


Worst finish: 11th in 1996 (as Western Province)


Biggest win: 34-3 v Brumbies, 1998


Biggest loss: 74-28 v Blues, 1998


Backs:


Werner Greeff


Jean de Villiers


Breyton Paulse


Egon Seconds


Gus Theron


Tonderai Chavanga


De Wet Barry


Marius Joubert


Gaffie du Toit


Chris Rossouw


Bolla Conradie


Neil de Kock (capt)


Forwards:


Joe van Niekerk


Schalk Burger


Luke Watson


Adri Badenhorst


Quinton Davids


Ross Skeate


Gerrie Britz


Faan Rautenbach


Riaan Olckers


Eddie Andrews


Pat Barnard


David Britz


Pieter Dixon


Hanyani Shimange