The South African Super Rugby franchises have often opted to go with an array of weird and wonderful shirt designs in an attempt to set them apart from the Currie Cup teams that spawned them. In 2011, however, the Stormers went the other way, wearing the traditional blue and white hoops of Western Province for the first time – fans loved it, collectors loved it, and it’s been the idea ever since.
However, the Stormers aren’t Western Province, and as such aren’t as beholden to tradition, and the Cape Town franchise has been tweaking the formula in interesting and rather polarising ways ever since. In 2014 we had the chevron’d hoops on the home shirt, and a positively bonkers lightning bolt-tastic away shirt – bold, interesting and unique shirts designs both, but not exactly for the purists. And especially pleasing as the home and away shirts weren’t just simple palette-swaps.
The 2016/17 take is Adidas’s latest attempt to tweak the WP formula, and the home shirt is far from traditional. Like last year, the top half of the jersey is predominantly blue, but this time we have thin dark and light blue hoops. The hoopy theme continues on the bottom half of the shirt, where the hoops gradually thin out against a white background. It’s an undoubtedly striking and individual design, though it does bring to mind something Adidas did with Chelsea’s home shirt last season.
The gradually depleting stripes definitely make white a bigger feature of the jersey this year, which to our eyes makes the DHL main sponsor (something fans have grumbled about for some time) stand out a little less than it did on the 2014/15 kits – that should please many. Another addition to last season’s home shirt was a flash of Western Province red on the collar placket, and it’s back this year, upgraded to the whole collar.
Unlike previous Adidas shirts, these Stormers jersey follows the pattern of recent Adidas international shirts by getting rid of any stitched badges, preferring to sublimate them into the design instead (except for the Super Rugby patch on the sleeve, oddly). Sublimating is a better solution than heat-transfers of course, as the latter inevitably disintegrate and come off after enough washes, but we do miss the reassuring, old-school stitched badge and supplier logo.
The break from tradition isn’t going to go down well with everyone, particularly those who were so enthusiastic about the return to WP hoops a few years back. It’s a defiantly modern shirt, with lots going on, and for some people that will put them off. But with it’s cool over-the-shoulder stripes it feels like a cross between 2016 and Western Province in 1993. Even if you’re not digging it yet, give it time, we think it’s a grower.
The away shirt is again a substantial departure from the home jersey – perhaps not as much as last year, but that would have been hard! Instead we have a design that’s predominantly red, drawing on the colour of the Disa orchid – the symbol of Western Province rugby. The top half of the shirt is more similar to the home jersey, with its subtle hooped effect, although here they’re black and grey.
It’s a pretty stunning design, you have to say – the black and grey provides a great moody contrast to the brightness of the bottom of the jersey, while the red shoulder stripes, collar placket, and badges add splashes of colour to the top line, and make the whole thing hang together beautifully. Some have mentioned that it’s a little bit Saracens, and there’s definitely something of the 2013-era shirt in this, but it feels suitably different and stands up very well in its own right.
Quite aside from the fact that it’s a lovely shirt, it’s a very pleasant change to have an alternate jersey that’s actually a different primary colour to the home, as opposed to just boring old white. White change shirts can be great, but they’re so prevalent in rugby these days, we’re glad to see someone give it a rest! That said, three of the South African Super Rugby teams have opted for some kind of black in their alternate jerseys this year, so maybe all we’re seeing is the start of another trend – it’s funny how things go!
Two very cool new shirts then, though for us the away shirt is the real pick of the bunch – one of the nicest change shirts in Super Rugby this season!
Our thanks to Stormers fan and shirt collector Kevin Scoble for his input and insight in putting this review together