GUINNESS PRO12: Marcell Coetzee thanks Ulster fans

Ulster  Marcell Coetzee against  Edinburgh
Ulster Marcell Coetzee against Edinburgh

Marcell Coetzee played down the background noise ahead of his debut for Ulster against Edinburgh last Friday night and basically brushed it off.

The South African was just glad that after 10-months out of actiona with a serious knee injury he was able to get some time under his belt.

Coetzee was a huge capture for Ulster operations director, Bryn Cunningham almost a year ago, but the backrow forward ruptured his ACL in April playing with the Sharks in the Super Rugby Championship.

It mean 10-months off for the 28-capped Springbok, but when it was revealed by the News Letter six weeks ago that he would debut against Edinburgh, the clock began to tick down.

In the week leading up to last Friday’s game against Edinburgh, it was hard not to miss that Coetzee was making what was a long awaited apperance in the Ulster jersey.

Asked what he made of all the hype, Coetzee said: “Yeah, no pressure.”

“The whole build up after not playing rugby for 10 months - it was a big emotionally week for me personally just to get back playing the game I love.

“To be able to do it here at Kingspan with the crowd so loud and happy to get off with the win as well was just the cherry on top for me.

“I am very blessed and I would like to thank every supporter that messaged me this week, it was big week for me and the Ulster people made it extra special so thank you very much.”

“Ten months can stack some frustration and aggression in you but it is all a mental battle at the end of the day.

“You have to take it day by day and feed off any positive you can get and I think the positive is just getting through my first debut game injury free.

“We’ll build from that and continue the form as it grows and just continue growing with the team.”

He added: “The second half really got to me and we’ll build on the fitness.

“In terms of the pace our forwards had some good carries and we got some quick ball and that kind of sped up the game, we slacked off a bit in the second half and they got a few turnovers and we’ll work on that for next week, I’m not 100% but we’ll work on that.”

The 24-18 win over Edinburgh ended a four-match losing streak in all competitions and Coetzee was well aware of the importance of the night.

“It’s always special making your debut but to seal it off with a win is extra special,” he added.

“ The boys have worked so hard these two weeks they deserve it.

“The first half we can be proud of but we must dig deep in the second half. We must make it an 80 minute game and we can’t let opportunities go like that in the second and we must work on that building towards Glasgow.

“There were a couple of guys coming back to rugby, you can play club rugby and do you fitness of the field but there is nothing like the real game.

“As soon as you grow confidence in your body and feel that tempo of the game in your body that’s when you grow as a player and excel.

“The more game time we get now with all these guys coming back the better we can just continue to grow as a team.”

Coetzee added: “Our biggest goal at Ulster is to let the forwards combine with the backline.

“The big thing is we have to find that synergy amongst each other and find the links and that’s what we focus on hard, the more we can grow as a team the better the results.”

“You’ll get tries from the forwards sucking in guys and letting the back line do their job, it is great playing with a backline that is so experienced.”

“The positive on Friday night games it gives you two days to recover just to get away from the rugby and reflect and come Monday you are 100% there, normally in Super Rugby you play on the Saturday and you only have the Sunday and you’re back in on the Monday.

“It is good to sit back and reflect then we’ll build it up for next week, our philosophy is we’ll take it game by game and I don’t see us changing away from that.”