JOHANNESBURG - Whenever the Lions are discussed and the quality of their players debated, the names that roll off the tongue - Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Warren Whiteley, Elton Jantjies, Rohan Janse van Rensburg ... and then some. A player who hardly gets a mention though is Andries Coetzee.
The 27-year-old fullback is a mainstay in Johan Ackermann’s team and a player who is highly valued at Ellis Park, so much so that his name is one of the first on the team sheet every week.
Coetzee has been one of the unsung heroes in the Lions team over the last few seasons and this week he got rewarded with a call-up to the second Springbok training camp, to take place in Stellenbosch from Sunday. It’ll be his first involvement with the Boks.
He’ll be the first to say being part of a training camp though means zilch, but at least "Boeboes" - as he is known to his friends and teammates - is getting some kind of recognition.
Everyone likes it when their hard work is noticed, and rugby players are no different.
Coetzee missed a great deal of last season because of injury, but he has been superb in his five Super Rugby games so far this year and it’s debatable whether there has been a more consistent fullback in South Africa so far ... or in the last two years, for that matter.
Willie le Roux has been tried at Test level, been dropped and then recalled; people talk about Jesse Kriel being an option, and then there’s Warrick Gelant as well as Dillyn Leyds, who some are excited about, Clayton Blommetjies ... and more. But, what about Coetzee?
He has played a big role in the Lions winning four of their five matches so far this season, and some of his stats tell the story of a player who is in the form of his life: ball-carries, 50; running metres, 317m; clean-breaks, eight; defenders beaten, 17; try-assists, three; and good passes, 68.
The thing with Coetzee is you’re never going to get flashy, but you’re always going to have consistency in performance. He does the basics well, kicks the ball a mile and runs like the wind. Also, he can play anywhere in the backline - and has done so before.
Lions backs coach Swys de Bruin is a big fan of the unassuming fullback.
“Andries is one of the best fullbacks I’ve worked with, if not the best,” the well-travelled De Bruin told SA Rugby magazine last year.
“He’s got everything ... he’s quick, he’s strong and he has a big left boot. I’m really surprised he hasn’t been called up for higher honours yet.”
Well, Coetzee will be at next week’s training camp and he’ll be hoping to make a big impression. Fullback is, after all, one of the positions national coach Allister Coetzee will be looking to fill this year.
Added De Bruin: “He reminds me of (former Bok stalwart) Andre Joubert ... he reads the game so well. His counter-attacking ability is such a strength.”
Coetzee’s time of flying under the radar might just be coming to an end. He’ll be hoping for another big performance when the Lions host the Sharks in a big South African derby at Ellis Park this weekend, before going off to the Bok training camp.