GUINNESS PRO12: Marcell Coetzee will be like a “new signing” for Ulster when he makes debut: Les Kiss

Marcell Coetzee during Ulster Rugby training on the Aquinas G3 Pitch
Marcell Coetzee during Ulster Rugby training on the Aquinas G3 Pitch

Marcell Coetzee will be the major draw at Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium on Friday night when Ulster resume their Guinness PRO12 programme.

The South African back row will make his long awaited and eagerly anticipated debut for the Irish Province when Edinburgh are the visitors.

Having confirmed his move to Ulster early last year, the 25-year-old Springbok tore his ACL playing with the Sharks in April, sidelining him for 10 months.

The News Letter revealed six weeks ago that Ulster were expecting the 28-times capped South African to debut against Edinburgh - and on Tuesday director of rugby, Les Kiss, guardedly replied ‘Yes’ when the very question of Coetzee starting this week was asked.

Since pictures appeared on social media last week from the Ulster Rugby Twitter account of Coetzee training with the team, there has been a real buzz around the fans about seeing Coetzee in the Ulster jersey.

“It’s like a new signing,” added Kiss.

“Marcell’s enthusiasm has been fantastic and his approach to training and preparation is first class.

“He is champing at the bit and he certainly has an infectiousness nature about him, he is enthusiastic and he is gunning to go.

“All being equal he will be starting this week.”

Coetzee has impressed with both the Sharks, where he joined in 2011, in the Super Rugby Championship and with the Springboks and will be a massive addition in more ways than one to the Ulster backrow.

However, given the seriousness of the knee injury and the long road to recovery, Ulster fans should not be expecting a barn-storming debut from the ‘new boy’ and it will take some time for him to get back to his best.

Kiss knows it is important to temper his return and enthusiasm, as well as that of others.

“It will be interesting after that amount of time out. We have seen it ourselves with players who have been out with similar injuries.

“do you hit your straps straight away? No, but you hope you can bring your key strengths though.

“Will he last 80 minutes? Probably not. But we have a plan that is flexible to a degree with him.

“I think just having them in there and around the boys has been real helpful.

“You know the remit is not to try and win a game on his own, it is to fit in, make sure he knows what he is about.

“He is looking forward to it. Touch wood it will all continued down that path.”

Meanwhile, Ricky Lutton, Wiehahn Herbst, Peter Nelson and Stuart Olding are all in the mix to return after injury.

Lutton and Herbst are a huge boost given Ulster are stretched in the front row with props and hookers.

Rory Best is on Ireland duty and Rob Herring is a possibility to return from injury for next week’s visit of Glasgow. John Andrew will get a rare start at hooker this weekend.

Chris Henry is likely to captain the side as Ulster look to get their season back on track after a disappointing start and middle.