GUINNESS PRO12: Injury concerns take gloss off record breaking Ulster win over Zebre

Ulster's  Marcell Coetzee is an injury concern
Ulster's Marcell Coetzee is an injury concern

Ulster were bracing themselves to be without two key international stars for the remainder of the season.

South African Marcel Coetzee limped out 18 minutes into Ulster’s record breaking Guinness PRO12 68-21 win over Zebre on Saturday evening.

Less than 24 hours earlier Tommy Bowe lasted 30 seconds when he came on as a replacement in Ireland’s loss and had to leave the Principality Stadium pitch in Cardiff on the medical buggy.

It is understood Bowe may have factured his tibia and that would almost certainly rule him out for the season.

Springbok Coetzee is understood to have twisted his knee, although there was no confirmation if it was the same knee which had kept him out of action for the past nine months.

He had only returned to playing three weeks ago and Saturday night was his fourth appearance for Ulster.

Director of rugby, Les Kiss, said he was waiting to hear from the medical team in respect of both players on Monday.

In respect of Coetzee, Kiss said: “There’s a little bit of concern about the knee. We’ve said just let it settle, get a scan on Monday and see how it is.

“Think it’s the other one (knee from previous injury). I went to see him and I just shook his hand. I couldn’t chat in detail. Hopefully, touch wood, it’s all good.

“He was a bit down, he was happy the boys won. That was the big emotion but we’ll just have to see how Monday goes.”

As for Bowe, Kiss said: He is going to see the surgeon on Monday just to check out a possible fracture.

“We will get more clarity along with Marcel on Monday. It does not look like it is going to be good, we just have to see the extent of not how good it is.

Kiss said if it was the Tibia, it probably could be season ending.

“I am just being guided by the medics at the minute. Let us not read anything to it until we get the proper scan and proper prognosis of what has to be done there and see if it is short term or long term.”

Coetzee would be a massive blow to Ulster’s PRO12 run-in.

The impact the South African has made since finally making his overdue debut five weeks ago against Edinburgh has given Ulster a real lift.

And backrow players such as Chris Henry and Sean Reidy have really flourished with him at number eight.

British Lion winger Bowe has been in and out this season and there was some surprise at his inclusion on the bench for the penultimate game in the Six Nations against Wales on Friday night in Cardiff.

He had not been included in the initial 34-man panel for the final two rounds by Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt.

However, Andrew Trimble’s hand injury last weekend saw him called back and Schmidt had the faith to put him into the matchday 23.

However, Bowe was only brought on at the end of the match and picked up the injury almost immediately when making a tackle.

Although he may not have featured much for Ulster this season, his absence along with Coetzee and Trimble’s would still be a massive blow with Ulster now in a position to control their own destiny in the PRO12.

Having dropped out of the top four at the end of last year, five straight wins - four of them with bonus points - have seen them turn a corner and sitting in fourth place can mount a serious challenge for a place in the play-offs for the Championship