It has taken three years for Marcell Coetzee to earn his 31st Test cap and the experienced loose forward says his time away from the Springboks has only made him more eager to represent his country.
Coetzee will make his first appearance for the Springboks since 2019 after being named in a heavily changed starting lineup to face Wales in the second Test of the series in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The 31-year-old last played for South Africa in a World Cup warm-up match against Argentina three years ago, but a combination of injuries and the outstanding depth at loose forward has kept him out of the fold ever since.
Even though he returned to South Africa by joining the Vodacom Bulls from Irish side Ulster last year and was in outstanding form, the Springbok door seemed forever shut to him.
“When I heard my name being read out a few weeks ago it was as unbelievable as the first time,” explained Coetzee. “Believe me, you never take it for granted. I last played in 2019 and before that, there was a four-year gap, and in those breaks, you realise what you had when you were with the Boks and how much you want it back.
“So, being back in the system is phenomenal. When I first walked back into the camp it was so special to see my old pals, guys like Eben [Etzebeth] and Pieter-Steph [du Toit], and you know you are back in the family, and then you meet the faces that are new to you. That is what the Springboks are all about — the blending together of different personalities.”
Against Wales, Coetzee will form a powerful back row alongside fellow returnee Pieter-Steph du Toit – back from a shoulder injury – and debutant No 8 Evan Roos.
“Pieter-Steph was the world player of the year [in 2019] so he brings massive experience and class; Evan has had an exceptional season for the Stormers so it is good for him to be rewarded. He has incredible potential,” the Bulls captain said.
“The challenge for us as a loose trio is to quickly build the synergy and cohesion from our various strengths. These are men you want next to you and we can’t wait for the weekend.”
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