CAPE TOWN – Marcell Coetzee was all over the pitch against the Stormers on Friday night – carrying the ball up, contesting the breakdowns, putting in the big hits on defence, and generally making a nuisance of himself for the opposition.
It’s nothing less than what Jake White would’ve expected of his newest Bulls recruit, and Coetzee even captained the team from late in the first half after Duane Vermeulen got injured in the 31-27 Rainbow Cup SA victory at Loftus Versfeld.
The 30-year-old Springbok loose forward had a smile on his face afterwards following a barn-storming Bulls debut that would have caught the eye of national coach Jacques Nienaber ahead of Saturday night’s squad announcement.
“Ek’s ’n bietjie moeg, hoor (I’m a bit tired, hey)!” Coetzee told SuperSport in a post-match TV interview.
“The boys have been good to me the whole week as I get used to the structure. It’s been phenomenal being back in South Africa – since I’ve landed, it’s just been a smile on my face. Having a return game like that really reminds you of what you’ve been missing.
“The local derbies… you never forget that physicality! Credit to the Stormers – they came with a fighting spirit. They used their opportunities pretty well, and credit to the (Bulls) boys – they really stuck to their guns there, showed some character towards the end and just the confidence playing with the guys, it’s just phenomenal.”
The rough-and-tumble nature of the game would’ve suited Coetzee’s robust style, and he got stuck in with the same relish that saw him become an inspirational figure for the Sharks and Ulster previously.
It is exactly the kind of impact that White would’ve hoped for, especially following Vermeulen’s departure.
“Unbelievable. That guy is… he took over the captaincy. He’s literally gone from arriving at the club, not knowing anybody or the game plan or all the calls that we have – and the next thing, he’s captain,” the former Bok coach said at the post-match press conference.
“The feedback I got from the players is that he was unbelievable – the way that he led them, the way that he spoke to them. He played 80 minutes, having just come off a long-term injury.
“He was phenomenal, and I am looking forward to having him around for a long period of time, because he obviously has signed a long-term deal with us, which is exciting.”