The Stormers spent the week in Auckland preparing for the match, and while Fleck said that the Stormers’ Kiwi skills coach Paul Feeney had briefed them as to how tough it can be playing in Christchurch at night, the Stormers coach said that the slippery conditions won’t dampen their mood ... or their style.
Fleck did, however, highlight a few key areas that the Stormers are going to have to get right.
“At the moment the weather is pretty good in Auckland. I’ve chatted to Paul Feeney and he believes it’s always quite tough to play in Christchurch at seven at night. The ball is always slippery and greasy and even if it’s a clear night it’s a challenging surface to play on,” Fleck said.
“So set-piece has got to be spot on, our kicking game has got to be spot on, but we’re going to play with a lot of courage, the way we have throughout the season, so we’re looking forward to this one.”
Fleck also said that the team has worked in a few good training sessions this week, and added that the players were positive ahead of the big clash.
“It was quite a tough travel over here. But we got to do our session on Tuesday and we had another good one today (Thursday) and the guys are in good spirits,” Fleck said.
“I’m pleasantly surprised, the vibe in the group is great. We enjoy touring as a group and we’re looking forward to the game."
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has made seven changes to his team that thrashed the Sunwolves 50-3 last week and, again, the black and red outfit will be packed with All Blacks.
But Fleck said that although the make-up of the team will be a challenge for his younger players, it’s a challenge that they are looking forward to.
“It’s been good so far and we’re looking forward to it. It’s obviously going to be a challenge, playing a team full of All Blacks, and the Stormers franchise has never won in Christchurch. So it’s going to be epic."
Fleck’s make-up will also look a bit different to the one that lost 29-16 to the Lions last weekend, with Dillyn Leyds moving to fullback in the absence of the injured SP Marais, while Bjorn Basson will start at No 11.
Scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage is back in the mix after being rested last week, with Jano Vermaak moving to the bench, while Pieter-Steph du Toit moves from lock to blindside flank in the place of skipper Siya Kolisi, who is being rested as part of the Springbok management plan with Eben Etzebeth taking over as skipper.
In the last change to the starting line-up, tighthead prop Wilco Louw returns to the run-on side, with Frans Malherbe providing cover on the bench.
Fleck also gave his thoughts on just what it is that makes the Crusaders such a challenging side.
“It’s obviously their history (what makes them so strong), their culture and what they stand for. Scotty Robertson, being an ex player, has definitely brought those traditional strengths back – strong upfront, strong kicking game – it’s a pretty simple plan, but it’s effective,” said Fleck.
“The side is laden with All Blacks, it’s always been, they bring in good young players and culturally they’re just really strong. It’s a big challenge for our guys ... playing against seasoned All Blacks. There’s no bigger game.
“There’s no bigger challenge than the Crusaders. But that’s we’re excited about, it’s one for the history books.”
Stormers STARTING XV: Dillyn Leyds, Cheslin Kolbe, EW Viljoen, Dan du Plessis, Bjorn Basson, Robert du Preez, Dewaldt Duvenage, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Nizaam Carr, Chris van Zyl, Eben Etzebeth (capt), Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, JC Janse van Rensburg; Replacements: Ramone Samuels, Oli Kebble, Frans Malherbe, Jan de Klerk, Cobus Wiese, Jano Vermaak, Kurt Coleman, Dan Kriel