Home is where the heart is for Marcell Coetzee
CAPE TOWN- A four-month lockdown break in South Africa swayed Marcell Coetzee’s mind about remaining in Belfast, and played a major part in him signing for the Bulls.
The Springbok loose forward’s departure from Ulster in Northern Ireland was confirmed over the weekend by his club, after the Bulls posted a Twitter meme on Christmas Day with a picture of a Bok player in action against Argentina.
“#BullsFamily24 we have the biggest festive gift for you ...EVER! So big .. So cool... We still trying to package it. Check out our social platforms on Monday at 10h00. Our BIGGEST signing for the year... literally,” read the message, and it was soon clear that the photo was of Coetzee carrying the ball against Los Pumas in Durban in 2015.
That ultimately forced Ulster’s hand, and they announced the news on their website late on Boxing Day.
The Bulls have been chasing Coetzee’s signature for a while, with coach Jake White saying in November that he had informed the union’s management of his desire to acquire the 30-Test cap former Sharks star.
Comfortable playing in all three loose-forward positions, Coetzee has been operating largely at No 8 for Ulster in recent seasons. “It all started during lockdown when I was back home for four months. My wife and I did a lot of thinking together about life, and we also reflected on where I am in my career,” he said on the Ulster website.
“We decided to come back to Belfast with an open mind, but ultimately we miss home, the South African culture and way of life – and after five seasons, the longing for home has just caught up with us.
“I must say Ulster have been absolutely superb to me, on and off the field, during my career, and I feel I have grown as a person and as a player for the experiences the club has given me. Ulster will always have a special place in the hearts of my wife and I.”
But White will have to wait quite a while for his prized signing, as Ulster said that Coetzee will only return to South Africa at the end of the 2020/21 season in June.
That means the 29-year-old won’t feature for the Bulls in the new Rainbow Cup that starts in April, so he will have to try to impress Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber in Ulster colours to push for selection for the British and Irish Lions Test series.
Meanwhile, the Bulls were scheduled to conduct a new round of Covid-19 testing yesterday, and if everything is all clear, they will resume training today after their recent Currie Cup match against Griquas was cancelled due to a “substantial number” of positive coronavirus cases in their squad.
The log leaders, though, have managed to reschedule their last two league games against the Lions (at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday, January 6 at 7pm) and Pumas (Mbombela Stadium on Sunday, January 10 at 4pm).