• Supreme Stormers the window to the rugby world

    Supreme Stormers the window to the rugby world

    The Stormers are the best supported club in the rugby world – and their South African rivals the Bulls are the biggest opposition attraction in Cape Town, writes Mark Keohane. 

    The Stormers, into their third season of the United Rugby Championship, are unmatched for consistency over the past two and a half league seasons when it comes to crowd attendance. Cape Town loves rugby and they love the Stormers.

    They are also tops when it comes to hosting their traditional rivals, the Bulls.

    No team can match the consistency and growth of the Stormers in home attendance. It is a credit to the vision of Stormers Director of Rugby John Dobson and those players who bring to life Dobson’s belief in how the game should be played.

    There is a distinct Stormers DNA to Dobson and this current group, in how they play and how they relate to the Cape based rugby supporters. They are also the only group to win an international title in the 28 year history of the Stormers and they are the only Stormers squad to host six successive league play-offs, including two successive URC finals.

    The Stormers also hosted the last 16 of the Champions Cup a season ago, when they beat London’s Harlequins in front of a DHL Stadium crowd of 33 501. On Saturday they host the tournament champions of 2021/22 and 2022/23, La Rochelle, in the last 16.

    The Stormers, even during the Covid-restricted first season, surged ahead of their league opposition in crowd attendance in South Africa and, in the last season and a half, have owned the title of most supported club in home games in the URC.

    The 2021/22 play-off matches attracted the maximum allowed to attend a match at the time (20 783 versus Edinburgh in the quarter-finals), (30 383 versus Ulster in the semi-finals) and (30 128 versus the Bulls in a home team winning Grand Final.’

    In the following season the Stormers increased every play-off attendance, 44 109 against the Bulls in the quarter-finals, 47 261 against Connacht in the semi-final and a URC record 56 334 in the final against Munster.

    This season the Stormers, in URC league matches, boasted 39 925, up from the impressive 30 003 the previous season, for the December showdown with the Bulls and improved the Sharks visit from 30 721 in the 2022/23 season to a brilliant 37 246 home attendance on the 30th December, 2023.

    The Cape Town support base has come out in numbers, despite incredibly challenging economic times, and they’ve shown an appetite to travel to support their boys. Italy’s premier side Benetton got 12 507 at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch last season and the growth and support for the URC has been showcased in increased numbers from the first season to the third. For example, 9616 watched the Stormers play Edinburgh in a league match in the 2021/22 season and 23 281 made it to the DHL Stadium a fortnight ago for the Stormers seven-try 43-21 win against the Scottish side.

    Last Saturday even more, if only marginally at 24 602, made it to the Stadium on Easter Saturday, which made it the biggest crowd attendance in the premier rugby leagues in England, Ireland, Wales and France last Saturday. There were no home games in Scotland, with Edinburgh (in Durban v the Sharks) and Glasgow (in Wales v the Scarletts) playing away from home.


    Ireland’s Leinster have traditionally produced big crowds for their biggest games, played at the national Aviva Stadium, and Munster have also, on occasion, packed in 30 000 at Thomond Park in Limerick.

    The Bulls, when hosting the Stormers in Pretoria a month ago, sold out 50 000.

    For the most it is the Stormers at home or the Stormers as an away opposition that gets the numbers to a stadium.

    It is a compliment to how the Stormers play, but in a Cape Town context, the super Stormers support is combination of the squad, their style of play and a local fan base that consider themselves, rightly so, the Mecca of international Club rugby in their support of the Stormers.

    On Saturday, La Rochelle visits. They are the back-to-back Champions Cup winners, they boast 13 Test players in their starting line-up, including eight French World Cup players and former Springbok and Stormers winger Dillyn Leyds.


    They are a World XV/Test team in another guise, and they will get a world class reception from a word class crowd and the game’s leading crowd, on average in numbers, in home games.

    This is about Cape Town puffing out its chest and telling the world this city is not only among the planet’s most visited cities as a travel destination, it is also the home of rugby.


    Every statistic over the past three seasons – and for decades before that at Newlands – supports the boast.


    Article written by

    Keo has written about South African and international rugby professionally for the last 25 years