It’s been quite a testing week for the DHL Stormers in an unusually (by summer standards) cold and wet Christchurch, but backline coach Robbie Fleck has seen plenty of positives ahead of the team’s massive Vodacom Super Rugby match-up against the Crusaders.
The Men from Cape Town arrived in Christchurch in the early hours of Tuesday morning (New Zealand time) and were greeted by some harsh weather conditions.
As a result, field training was cancelled on Tuesday, after just 20 minutes, and the team had their first decent hit-out on Thursday as they upped preparations before taking on the Crusaders in their own backyard on Saturday.
“It’s been a different week – for everyone – we’ve never quite experienced this kind of weather before in New Zealand, they’re calling it the ‘100-year’ storm,” said Fleck from Christchurch on Friday morning (NZ time).
“The guys had to spend the first few days here indoors, but it kept us together and the boys have relaxed and been enjoying each other’s company.
“Since the storm has finished it’s been proper summer here, so we trained yesterday (Thursday) in beautiful conditions and we were able to get through everything that we had (and wanted) to.
“It’s actually turned out to be a good week ahead of what is a very important game.”
Experienced flyhalf Peter Grant met up with the team in New Zealand this week – after finishing his club commitments in Japan – and has been named on the bench for Saturday. (See the team HERE.)
Grant, a veteran of 90 Super Rugby appearances for the DHL Stormers, will be joined on the bench by new wing signing Sailosi Tagicakibau, with both players having fitted in seamlessly this week.
“Bash (Peter Grant) flew in just a bit earlier this week and Losi (Sailosi Tagicakibau) has been with the guys for a few days already,” said Fleck.
“In some ways, the storm was a blessing in disguise as the guys were forced to stay inside which gave Bash and Losi a good opportunity to spend extra time (with the guys) and going through all our systems. Bash and Losi are feeling good and they both trained really well on Thursday.”
Fleck was speaking to www.iamastormer.com before the Stormers’ final training run of the week – their regular pre-game captain’s run (a day before kick-off) – and he added: “Thursday was quite a long training session – we had to get through our attack, defence, kicking game and our line-outs in two hours.
“The intensity was there for the first hour, then we took the tempo down a bit to save the guys and the upcoming captain’s run will be a 20-minute walk-through and we will walk through a few more things after dinner tonight at the hotel.”
The DHL Stormers have never won in Christchurch, with South African Super Rugby franchises winning just two out of 44 matches against the Crusaders in Christchurch since 1996. (A further two games have been drawn.)
The Crusaders’ last defeat against a South African team was almost 13 years ago – on April 22, 2001, when the Cats won by 32-31 – whilst their last home loss to a non-New Zealand side in Christchurch came in 2004 (against the Waratahs).
“It’s a massive challenge for us – as a DHL Stormers team and a South African team,” said Fleck ahead of Round Five of the 2014 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
“We’ve had some close battles with the Crusaders, whether it’s been here or back in Cape Town.
“They’re going to be up for it, after two losses, and the people here expect nothing but the best from their team – like our fans back home – so we’re both feeling similar pressure at the moment.
“It’s going to be a tough battle up front, between two quality teams, but our boys are ready,” added Fleck. “We’re taking things game by game, as always, and we’re looking to make an improvement in our game (once again) and to keep converting our opportunities.”