Reflecting on his time back in the Bok set-up last year, loose forward Marcell Coetzee says the words that come to mind are ‘unity’ and ‘professionalism’, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In a wide-ranging exclusive Zoom chat with SARugbymag.co.za, Coetzee spoke about spending lockdown in the South African bush, his long-awaited recall to the national side last year and the unfortunate injury that ended his World Cup dream.
After a near four-year absence from the national side, Coetzee featured off the bench in the 2019 Rugby Championship win over the Wallabies, which rewarded the abrasive back rower for his outstanding form with Irish club Ulster.
Although Coetzee was very much in the World Cup picture at that point, an unfortunate injury suffered in a ‘warm-up’ against Argentina dashed his hopes of heading to Japan.
Despite this setback, the 29-year-old has quickly set his sights on earning a spot in the team for next year’s highly anticipated British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, while he reflects fondly on the time he was able to spend with the Springboks.
‘When I think back to that time, the first word that comes to mind is “unity” within the team. Coming from the outside it was amazing to see how everyone gelled with guys from different provinces and others from overseas. I hadn’t been part of the mix for a long time, but just felt so at ease and the set-up was so professional.
‘Rassie [Erasmus] made it abundantly clear what he wanted to achieve, which was to win the Rugby Championship and World Cup. Everyone was on board, the preparation was intense and, all in all, you knew exactly where you stood and where the team was going.
‘Even though I was unable to go to the World Cup, I was really confident the Boks were capable of winning it,’ Coetzee continued.
‘They had all the hunger and motivation, and a really strong squad of players and leadership. I just knew if the group stuck together and built momentum they would be a real force. Ultimately, they showed their character and resilience to go all the way after losing to the All Blacks in the first game, and I couldn’t have been more proud.’
*The full interview with Coetzee will feature in the upcoming issue of SA Rugby magazine.