Preparing for a big game after taking a 57-24 beating the week before would be hard for any team, and Fleck said that long travelling and the shorter week (playing on Friday as opposed to Saturday) also added to it.
“We still had to travel to
Fleck has made a lot of changes for their clash with the Highlanders, but Pieter-Steph du Toit moving back to lock wasn’t one of them.
And Fleck believes that picking Du Toit at No 7 gives his loose trio “the right sort of feel”.
The Stormers coach made nine changes in total to the team that lost to the Crusaders last week, including two positional changes.
These positional switches will see Dillyn Leyds moving back to the left wing, with SP Marais returning from injury at fullback, while Nizaam Carr moves from openside flank to No 8.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who started at No 8 in
“At lock Chris van Zyl is injured, so Jan de Klerk comes in for him. Pieter-Steph had a good game at No 7 last week. We feel the loose trio we have selected for this game has the right balance and the right sort of feel,” said Fleck.
“We felt in the Lions game that preceded the tour that we needed someone to do the ball-carrying role that Pieter-Steph does so well, and that was why we chose him there last week.
“He had an outstanding game, so we have decided to stick with it. Siya has played openside before, but with him there, we now feel we have two ball-carriers on the flanks.
“At the moment we are struggling to get in behind the opposition, and maybe having Siya and Pieter-Steph together, we will achieve that better. We need to get more momentum upfront than we currently are so that the backs can run on to the ball a bit better.”
Although Du Toit will feature at flank again, he will still call the shots at the lineouts, and Fleck added that it would have been a bit of a push to bring JD Schickerling, who has joined the squad in
“JD could have played at a push, but he was only due to fly out to join us next week, so we decided not to rush him. Pieter-Steph can move to lock later in the game, and we have two loose forwards on the bench in an attempt to blunt the Highlanders’ high-tempo game. We felt we’d need the extra pace and mobility later in the game,” he said.
In the two other changes to the pack, props Oli Kebble and Frans Malherbe come into the starting line-up ahead of Wilco Louw and JC Janse van Rensburg.
“We felt that Frans needed some game time as he hasn’t had that much recently, and he made a great impact when he came on last week, and it is the same with Oli. JC and Wilco have started a lot of games this season,” said Fleck.
In the backline, Dewaldt Duvenage makes way at No 9 for Jano Vermaak, while Dan Kriel will start at inside centre in the place of Dan du Plessis, who dislocated his shoulder against the Crusaders.
Former Highlanders centre Shaun Treeby is set to make his Stormers debut off the bench, and with flyhalf Kurt Coleman having picked up an injury during training this week, Bjorn Basson will provide cover on the bench.
Fleck also added that they were looking forward to the game and a number of threats that the Highlanders pose.
“Tactically, they are very smart. They like to play rugby in your half.”
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Bench: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Jan de Klerk, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Bench: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Shaun Treeby, 23 Bjorn Basson.
Referee: Glen Jackson. Kickoff: 9.35am.