Bulls head coach Jake White is keen to see his back row boosted by the availability of debutant Marcell Coetzee in action against the Stormers in Pretoria on Friday.
Coetzee, who was released early from his contract with Ulster to take up his move to the Bulls, will make his first start in their crucial Rainbow Cup SA clash with the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld.
The 30-year-old will start at openside flank in a powerful combination with fellow Springbok Duane Vermeulen and promising youngster Elrigh Louw.
Speaking during an online media conference in the buildup to Friday’s big encounter, White said he was looking to see how Coetzee operates in the Bulls’ new-look back row.
‘It’s interesting. It’s his first game for the Bulls, but I have known him for a long time,’ White said. ‘I coached him at the Sharks, when he was relatively young.
‘He was voted Player of the PRO14, Players’ Player of the PRO14, best player at Ulster. He can play at 6, 7 and 8. I am just looking to see that combination of Duane, Elrigh and him playing together. I don’t think there are too many loose-forward combinations in world rugby at club level that are better and then you still have Marco van Staden on the bench.
‘The nice thing about it, is that it is a combination that hasn’t played together. But I am confident that all four of them are good enough and understand their roles and will get it right this weekend.’
Vermeulen added that Coetzee’s all-round ability will give him plenty of confidence as captain, while 21-year-old Louw could learn plenty from both him and Coetzee.
‘He is a good ball-carrier and plays to the ball. He is actually a well-rounded guy. He carries, tackles and defends well. He can play to the ball on the ground. So, he’s a busy character. I must say, I am looking forward to playing alongside him again. He has got great energy and he is a guy who takes charge of everything.
‘It’s also nice to have Elrigh playing alongside us. He can learn quite a lot from Marcell as well. Marcell can back me up with certain decisions on the field and the way we want to play. I am really looking forward to it.’
Coetzee is not the only Springbok that will be making a comeback for the Bulls, as Ivan van Zyl will be starting in an experienced halfback combination with Morne Steyn, while Gio Aplon has been named on the bench after recovering from a long-term knee injury.
‘I get confidence out of the fact that when you can bring Gio Aplon, who is a Springbok, Marcell Coetzee and Ivan van Zyl into your squad,’ White said. ‘Credit to the conditioning squad, who managed them correctly and got them ready for this big game.
‘It’s a must-win game for us. It’s great to have those three guys back for this game at home.
‘Knowing Gio Aplon, I have known him a long time, it’s not just what he does on the field, it’s what he does off the field. It’s the way that he interacts with the players. The work that he puts in with a guy like Stravino Jacobs and David Kriel, the younger players. Just to have his voice on the field as well, helping the outside backs, will be important.
‘I’m not expecting flashy stuff. He’s just come back from a long-term injury. He got injured in literally the second or third week that we were together. It’s going to take a while. But I think he has added value in the way that he talks and communicates with the group.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images