In the new issue of SA Rugby magazine, Marcell Coetzee documents how he never gave up on his dream of earning a Bok recall despite having to overcome three serious knee injuries. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
On Sunday, it was confirmed that Coetzee had joined the Springboks in a preparation camp. For Coetzee, it’s a long-awaited return after last earning his 28th Test cap back in 2015.
The year after, he made the move to Irish club Ulster, but arrived nursing a serious ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) knee injury suffered in his final Vodacom Super Rugby match for the Sharks against the Lions.
Over the next couple of years, Coetzee would pick up two further knee injuries that required surgery, leading to some self-admitted doubts about whether he would be able to battle his way back once again.
‘I’m not going to lie to you, I was staring retirement in the face,’ Coetzee says. ‘When I heard I’d stretched my ACL again, I thought this isn’t looking good for me.’
Yet, Coetzee ultimately kept the faith, and last September the industrious forward made another comeback in a Pro14 clash. From there, he has gone from strength to strength, establishing himself as one of the most influential performers for Ulster throughout a memorable 2018-19 season.
Coetzee’s irrepressible form understandably led to heightened calls for Rassie Erasmus to consider offering the overseas-based star a long-awaited recall to the Springbok set-up in a World Cup year.
At the time of our interview, Coetzee still hadn’t heard from the Bok coach, but his ambition to wear the green and gold once again remained steadfast.
‘It will always be a passion of mine to get back into the Bok squad. To represent my country is the pinnacle and I’ll always be open to that if they think I’m good enough,’ he reiterated.
‘But I’m just taking it day by day, and trying to ensure I’m in the best form and as fit as possible. Considering what I’ve been through, I’d never take it for granted if that call-up should come.’
As fate would have it, that call-up has now most deservedly arrived.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images