Ulster’s latest South African addition, Marcell Coetzee, serves as the provinces second quality coup of the summer after the considerable talent of Charles Piutau had been secured earlier in the off-season.
In an era where the Irish provinces are struggling to entice the rugby world’s elite talent due to the money-laden European clubs of England and France throwing about their Goliath financial weight, Ulster’s off-field antics serve as a timely reminder that Ireland has been and still remains as an attractive location for genuine international class to ply their trade; a trait which has been evident in the past with the likes of Doug Howlett and Rocky Elsom making their way to the Emerald Isle; to name but a few.
While these quality imports reflect positively on the Irish game as whole, they will not be welcomed all too kindly by the north’s opposing Irish provinces, and indeed European counterparts, as the Ulster squad which has now been assembled for the upcoming season screams quality and class.
While Piutau brings an additional element of clinical power and pace in what is an already international-laden back line, with the likes of Paddy Jackson truly finding his feet on the highest level after an impressively composed and instrumental June series against the Springboks; the addition of Coetzee to the squad is poised to serve as a highly substantial move for Les Kiss and his management team.
Replacing Nick Williams at the rear of the scrum was always going to be a difficult task given the standing that the man has attained at the club through his bombarding and barraging performances. However, Coetzee’s inclusion has not only replaced the quality Kiwi like-for-like, but it adds that extra bit of worth to Ulster’s forward pack.
One area where Williams was perhaps left found wanting was his durability as his sheer size left his gas-tank somewhat depleted entering into the third quarter of many a high intensity game.
This however is not an area of concern for the 28-timed capped Springbok and at 6ft 3 and 17st 9lb, the former Shark offers just as much destructively devastating power in the loose as Williams. While Coetzee was unlucky to miss out on the 2015 World Cup due to a knee injury, he was a go to exponent during Heyneke Meyer’s tenure where his rib-crushing tackles could turn the flow of the games proceedings in the blink of an eye.
The seismic strength in which Coetzee pertains leads to his ferociously attritional mindset and style and it is this key quality in which Les Kiss will look to harness so as to break Ulster’s trophy-less drought of over a decade since they claimed the Pro12 title back in the 2005/06 season.
Unfortunately for Ulster fans Coetzee suffered an ACL injury while playing for the Sharks in Super Rugby and is not expected to be back in action until the new year at the earliest. While he remains in Durban to complete his rehab, the Potchefstroom native recently arrived to Belfast for a two week period with his wife Chanelle to get a taste of his new surroundings and what the rich culture of Belfast has to offer.