Injury-plagued Stormers remain positive
Lock JD Schickerling appears to have a torn bicep that will keep him out for at least 12 weeks‚ which has just about ended his season.
They are already thin in the lock department with Eben Etzebeth not expected back for two months.
It was the Stormers’ second defeat on tour after losing 34-27 to the Waratahs the previous week.
They face a huge challenge to turn their season around in Dunedin against the 2015 Super Rugby champions.
Fellow second rower Pieter-Steph du Tout‚ who was knocked out late in the first half against the Crusaders‚ has passed his concussion protocols but the management are monitoring his fitness this week.
Former SA Schools captain Salmaan Moerat is flying to NZ as a replacement for Schickerling.
“It’s a huge loss to lose JD‚” Fleck said.
“He was outstanding again at the weekend against three All Black locks. His work rate and brutality have been exceptional.
“What makes it even more unfortunate is that the injury happened in the last scrum of the game. His arm was caught in the scrum and he couldn’t get out of it.”
In terms of the result‚ which saw the Stormers slump to their 12th consecutive away loss to the Crusaders‚ Fleck remained positive.
The Stormers conceded four tries in the opening 20 minutes to fall 26-0 behind‚ but showed good composure and character to fight back. It’s this trait that the coach preferred to focus on – in public at least.
“After the game we were gutted because we clawed our way back to 31-21 after such a bad start‚” Fleck said.
“We were in the game at that stage but if we break it up into segments we were not good in the first 20 minutes.
“The Crusaders won the toss and played with the wind‚ which was a 14-point wind. They racked up some quick points through our own mistakes. We panicked a little in that period.
“But we were the dominant side in the next quarter‚ until the stroke of halftime when Pieter-Steph was knocked out cold and lost possession.
"They counter-attacked and scored and we went into break further behind than we should’ve been.
“We had hard words at halftime and clawed our way back into the contest. We finished the stronger team‚ which showed our conditioning is spot on to compete with Kiwi teams for 80 minutes. Maybe we deserved a little more from that game.
“We had numerous line breaks that we didn’t convert and at times we had the Crusaders under a lot of pressure. We lost the game in the first 20 minutes because for the next hour we led 28-19.
“The score didn't accurately reflect what happened in that game‚ but despite the result we have taken some confidence from the way we were able to put the Crusaders under pressure.”