The regular Bulls captain has just completed a six-month sabbatical at Japanese club Kobe Steelers, and posted on his Instagram account that he “can’t wait to see” his teammates in Pretoria.
He is set to rejoin the Bulls on Monday, May 1, ahead of next Saturday’s United Rugby Championship quarter-final against their arch-rivals, the defending champion Stormers, at Cape Town Stadium.
Coetzee will be eager to get one over John Dobson’s team, who have been unbeaten in five matches against Jake White’s outfit in the URC since last year.
The loose forward was not involved in the last encounter that the Stormers won 23-19 at Loftus Versfeld in February, and will hope to make a major difference to the Bulls, who returned to winning ways in their last three games following a 10-match losing streak.
“Was an unbelievable six months in Japan. Thank you for @kobesteelers_official for the privilege to bring me over!” Coetzee said on Instagram this week.
“Thank you for all the fans that made the trip extra special. Memories was created on and off the field! Thanks to my teammates for welcoming me with open arms, was special to share the battlefield with you…
“But now it’s time to return to my @vodacombulls family… can’t wait to see you… Sien julle binnekort manne (See you soon guys).”
And Coetzee should be fresh as he played in just 10 matches for Kobe since his debut on December 18, while according to the Japan Rugby League One website, his last game was on March 10.
His ability to play in all three loose-forward positions also makes him a Springbok contender for the World Cup, despite being largely out of the mix on the national front in recent years.
The knee injury to Bok captain Siya Kolisi could be serious enough to sideline him for the next few months, if not the World Cup itself, so an impressive run of form in the URC and Currie Cup from Coetzee could catch the eye of SA coach Jacques Nienaber.
But it’s all about the URC quarter-final against the Stormers for the former Sharks star. Coetzee’s departure for Japan was mentioned by Blue Bulls Rugby Union president Willem Strauss this week as one of the main reasons for the Pretoria franchise’s battles on the pitch in recent months, so his return can galvanise the team in Cape Town.
“Why did we lose form: 1) the life threatening illness of Jake had a massive impact, 2) a playing schedule from hell during December and January, which included six or seven away games and three soul-destroying trips with via economy class to Europe (should never happen again), 3) Marcell leaving for Japan, 4) under prepared and no identity for Currie Cup team when we started the campaign (our mistake) 5) plain bad luck, losing six games with one score and/or one play,” Strauss wrote in a WhatsApp broadcast message.
“All of the above then led to loss of confidence and momentum…
“How did we get back on track: 1) Jake recovered and his incredible resilience, 2) our players took accountability, 3) corrections were made where needed, 4) KLA (Kurt-Lee Arendse) and Canan (Moodie) back, 5) sound and sober leadership from Board and stakeholders.
“All of the above then led to regaining confidence and momentum… Lessons were learned and we will continue to strive to becoming the world’s leading rugby club on and off the field.