Fleck laments 'extreme' Hong Kong conditions
Cape Town - The Stormers did not train on Monday as they continued to recover from their gruelling weekend trip to Hong Kong with a number of players suffering from heat-stroke during their 26-23 loss to the Sunwolves on Saturday.
That result has severely dented the Stormers' playoff chances in 2018, but speaking on Monday coach Robbie Fleck helped paint a picture of just how difficult the playing conditions were.
With temperatures well over 35 degrees Celsius and the humidity even more severe, the Stormers struggled.
It is the first ever Super Rugby game to have been played in Hong Kong, but due to the floodlights at the Mong Kok Stadium not quite being up to standard just yet, the match kicked off at 13:15 local time.
Pieter-Steph du Toit was still ill on Monday having suffered from heat-stroke, but he could not be substituted during the match due to lock partner Chris van Zyl's ongoing cramp.
"We had three or four guys on drips after the game and I think three forwards suffered from severe heat-stroke," Fleck explained on Monday.
"We didn't train today because a number of guys haven't recovered from the game."
Fleck said he knew at half-time that his players were in a bad way.
"These were extreme conditions and certainly something that I was not accustomed to," he said.
"Walking into the changeroom at half-time, it literally looked like a war zone. Boys were in ice buckets and had cooling towels ... nothing was said for a couple of minutes and the boys had to rehydrate pretty quickly.
"Look, the conditions were the same for both sides, but I felt our boys certainly did struggle.”
Fleck added that his players were not able to move as well in the second half as they did in the first, and he suggested that the Sunwolves may have been better equipped for the extreme conditions given that they play and train in Singapore and Tokyo.
"Speaking to their coaches afterwards, even for them Hong Kong was quite extreme," Fleck said.
"In Singapore they train in similar conditions but they play in a stadium that is obviously under a roof and has air-conditioning.
Fleck remained adamant that he was not making excuses, and he accepted full responsibility for the side under-performing this season.
And, despite the venue dishing up some of the toughest conditions Fleck has ever seen, he believes that Super Rugby has a future in Hong Kong.
"It was a great week and we were looked after incredibly well. It is obviously a fantastic place to visit. They are rugby mad and I think everything is aligned for a future in Hong Kong," Fleck said.
"I think they understand that 13:15 is a tough time for a game and that will be part of the wash-up. The only reason I think we didn't play at 19:00 is because the lights are not Super Rugby standard.
"It's a fantastic place to play rugby and if you can play later at night and you're not getting cooked like the boys were in the day, then it'll be a fantastic place for teams to go and play."
Next up, the Stormers host the Lions at Newlands on Saturday.
It is a match they simply have to win if they are to keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for the tournament playoffs.
Kick-off will be at a far cooler 17:15.