DHL Stormers set sights on Highlanders challenge

PUBLISHED: March 5, 2018

The DHL Stormers will be looking to end their Australasian tour on a high when they take on the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.

Following the 45-28 defeat against the Crusaders at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch which saw them score four tries but concede seven, the DHL Stormers have a final chance to pick up a win on the road this weekend.

Speaking from Queenstown, where the team is currently training before they head down to Dunedin on Thursday, DHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck said that although disappointed with the result, there were some positives to take from their performance in Christchurch which they will look to build on as they set their sights on the next challenge against the Highlanders.

The Canterbury team made a commanding start to the game with the wind at their backs, punishing the DHL Stormers with four unanswered tries early on. However, the visitors showed good resolve to fight back either side of half-time and at one stage looked to be right back in the game.

“The first 20 minutes were not good, the Crusaders chose to play with the wind and they racked up some quick points through our mistakes.

“After the game we were pretty gutted, because we clawed our way back to 31-21 at one stage,” said Fleck.

Fleck explained that after a constructive half-time break, his team managed to execute their plans properly in an improved second-half display which gives them encouragement going forward.

“We had a good discussion with the players at half-time and we came out firing in the second half, knowing what we did well in the last 20 minutes of the first half and we racked up two quick tries.

“We finished the strongest team, there is no doubt that we have got the conditioning to face the Kiwi sides. We have shown the physicality that we can bring and we scored some excellent tries and we deserved more to be honest.

“We created a lot of opportunities, but we coughed up possession at critical stages. We just needed to show a lttle bit more patience and less panic, which we showed in the last 60 minutes,” he said.

Fleck’s team will face a different challenge from the Highlanders this week, but they have already put some plans in place as they look to end their tour on a high note.

“The Highlanders are a little more about special plays, clever tricks and attacking kicks. They are dangerous from turnover possession and are about speeding the game up and playing at tempo.

“There are different challenges, but we have done some good work and put some good plans in place so we are looking forward to the challenge there,” he said.

They will be without the services of lock JD Schickerling, who has returned home after injuring his arm against the Crusaders, with 19-year-old Salmaan Moerat heading to New Zealand as cover.

Pieter-Steph du Toit passed his concussion test after taking a knock to the head against the Crusaders and will continue the return-to-play protocol over the next five days.

Flank Cobus Wiese is in doubt for the Highlanders game after picking up a minor shoulder injury which will be assessed further during the week.

Flyhalf Damian Willemse has recovered fully from the haematoma he picked up against the Waratahs in Sydney and is available for selection against the Highlanders.