A storm has been brewing in the Stormers camp even before the start of this year’s Super Rugby tournament.
Not only has the franchise had some off-field difficulty surrounding their coaching staff, but rumours of a mass exodus at the end of the season are also doing the rounds.
The question then is, will the Stormers finally bring home the Super Rugby bacon?
They haven’t made any big signings this year - not with their current financial woes.
But the Stormers still have a strong enough squad to compete until the final whistle of the season.
Their second-stringers surprisingly held on for a win over a star-studded Bulls outfit on Super Hero Sunday and then also ran wild against Boland on Friday, meaning confidence will be high in the squad.
And the likes of Chris van Zyl, Juarno Augustus and Craig Barry to name a few have proven that they are ready for the big time should there be injuries to their international stars.
In fact, the Stormers have a proper back-up in almost every single position.
One concern, though, is at flyhalf.
Will Damian Willemse be used as a pivot or a fullback?
Will Jean-Luc du Plessis recover from his injuries to play a full season?
And will Josh Stander have enough in him to win big games if he is tasked with the responsibility of wearing the No.10 jumper in a playoff match?
For the Stormers to spark this year, centres Ruhan Nel and Damian de Allende will have to be at their best.
In recent years, De Allende has been used as a battering ram opposed to a player who has quick feet and good enough acceleration to beat defenders.
While their pre-season results have looked good, despite the off-field battles, coach Robbie Fleck’s biggest challenge will once again come when they hit the road.
We all know how good they are at Newlands, but it’s on tour where the South Africans will have their big tests this year.
This year sees them avoid a trip to hell in New Zealand.
With the Blues being their only Kiwi hosts Down Under, they should have a better time on the road.
But kicking off on a high when they face the Bulls at Newlands this weekend will be top of the priority list.
There is no doubt that Pote Human’s manne will be a better outfit at Loftus this Saturday than what they were at Cape Town Stadium two weeks ago.
Having made some experienced signings in Schalk Brits and Duane Vermeulen, the Bulls won’t be pushovers this year and with it being a World Cup year, South Africans will be hoping to see them back at the top of their game again.
The Stormers do have a one-up on them in terms of depth, though.
A look around the country at the other teams brings us to the Lions.
Having punched above their weight in recent seasons, the Joburg men will be up against it this year.
The void left by Franco Mostert and Jaco Kriel, who both left for Gloucester, will be big.
They also no longer have the presence of Rohan Janse van Rensburg in the midfield and I believe this will weaken the Lions to the point where they aren’t the best SA franchise in the tournament any longer.
But they’ve always managed to pull off a surprise or two over at Ellis Park.
In Durban, meanwhile, the Sharks couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to this year’s tournament; they face the Sunwolves first up.
A decent young team, the Sharks are probably not title contenders.
But coach Robert du Preez and his men have what it takes to cause big upsets whenever they take the field.
The winners of this year’s tournament will almost certainly come from New Zealand again.
And with their squad not having changed much - it will, however, be weird not to see retired prop Wyatt Crockett in action - the Crusaders should be the early favourites to continue dominating the tournament.
The Blues have been busy during the off-season and while they won’t be challenging for the title, watch out for the return of Ma’a Nonu to Super Rugby.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have lost a number of players, meaning it will be the Hurricanes that will probably be the Crusaders’ biggest competition in the New Zealand Conference.
As for the Aussies, what can you say? Yawn.