Cape Town – Ulster’s firebrand, versatile loose forward
Marcell Coetzee could help provide the Springboks with healthy depth in that
department at the Japan-staged next World Cup in 2019.
So says one of the most qualified authorities to speak on
the player, former national coach Heyneke Meyer.
Allister Coetzee’s predecessor over a four-year tenure,
Meyer introduced the ex-Sharks favourite to Test rugby as a just-turned 21-year-old
in his first season at the helm in 2012, quickly making him a key part of his
All of his 28 caps thus far came under Meyer’s watch, and he
would have sported a greater tally – remember that SARU have a 30-caps-or-more
policy for overseas-based to represent the country, unless in a World Cup year
– but for a badly-timed knee injury against Argentina in August 2015 that scuppered
his RWC dreams that season.
More recently, Coetzee has been plagued by further knee
issues, including the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament rupture, but he made a
surprisingly stirring competitive comeback for the Irish club in their PRO14
opening fixture against the Cheetahs on Friday.
The Potchefstroom-born combatant was robust and forceful in
general play and did his bit at the breakdowns too, helping another South
African in former Durban colleague Jean Deysel to earn broad ascendancy over
the Cheetahs’ loose forwards in a 42-19 triumph.
It did not massively surprise Meyer, an unashamed admirer of
the rugby package Coetzee offers.
“I realised even when he was a 20-year-old (starting out at
first-class level) what unbelievable all-round attributes he brings,” Meyer
told Sport24 on Monday.
“Marcell at his best can walk into any international side …
I really believe that.
“At school he mostly played as an eighth-man, but with his
exceptional work-rate I felt he could do the business for the Boks as an
More often than not, Meyer was proved dead right on that
score, although he also employed him occasionally as a blindsider when he used
the likes of Francois Louw or Heinrich Brussow in the No 6 jersey.
It is his very adaptability across the trio of loosie berths
that, Meyer feels, helps make him an ongoing, appealing package for the Bok cause,
even if it is not until the next World Cup or its build-up period.
“We have some good guys again in loose-forward stocks at
present,” said Meyer, “but you can never have enough decent loosies.
“That versatility, even if he is perhaps not renowned so
much as a lineout jumper if you ask him to play seven, makes him appealing in a
squad and he adds to Allister’s (current Bok coach Coetzee) scope for World Cup
possibilities in the department.
“He certainly adds depth to your plans, and he can be an
impact man as well with his full-blooded approach; he is an unbelievable
ball-carrier and very good on the ground.
“He still has lots to offer (aged only 26) … he is one of
the toughest guys I ever coached, and a bigger unit than some may appreciate.”
Meyer agreed that Coetzee was not dissimilar to now
Saracens-based Test veteran Schalk Burger in his broad approach to the game,
plus ability to make light of pretty serious injury setbacks to roar back.
“Yes, he is all over the place, with great mental resolve,
and like a young Schalk for the way he dives into (the fray), not caring too
much about the consequences for his body.
“Like Flo (Louw) he will benefit more and more from the
experience of playing in the northern hemisphere’s different landscape where
they are so clinical at the breakdown, for example.”
*Fresh off their triumph against the Cheetahs, the next
challenge for Coetzee’s Ulster outfit is against Italians Benetton Treviso away
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing