Marcell Coetzee: It is a privilege to be involved with Ulster

Ulster's Marcell Coetzee
Ulster's Marcell Coetzee

Marcell Coetzee has enjoyed this season with Ulster more than any since his arrival from South Africa simply because he has been able to play the game.

Back-to-back serious injuries left him with a total of five caps to his name after two seasons.

But he has more than made up for lost ground this year with 21 appearances and the Ulster fans have been able to see what the abrasive Springbok international was brought here for.

He has also been grateful to the Province for their patience with him, recently agreeing a three-year extension which keeps the 27-year-old in Belfast until the summer of 2022.

His presence in the ranks has been one of many reasons for the success story for Ulster this year.

And having finally made his European Champions Cup debut this season, he helped Ulster through the pool stages and into a quarter-final tie against Leinster.

They may have lost that game at the Aviva Stadium 21-18, but the Ulstermen have their eyes on silverware once again as they enter the Guinness PRO14 Final series.

And that starts with a home semi-final qualifier against Connacht on Saturday evening at Kingspan Stadium (5:35pm).

“I’m privileged to be in a squad like this,” said Coetzee. “I think it’s an awesome feeling to be having another knockout game.”

“Every player and the management has worked hard to get us into this spot and we’re really grateful for that.

“One of our goals was to be consistent and be a play-off team regularly.

“To be at the Kingspan for this weekend will really be a great buzz with lots of excitement and that’s what is within the squad at the moment.

“We’re all looking forward to the challenge that awaits us and Connacht have got our number after the two times we’ve played them this season so we really know that the task won’t be easy so we’ve just got to prepare the best we can and look forward to the challenge.”

It is clear from the enthusiasm Coetzee brings that he is just delighted to be able to play on a regular basis this season having had to endure two nightmare years.

“It’s special and humbling to have been able to enjoy a proper season,” he smiles.

“I missed just about all the games for almost two years and now coming into this one of our better seasons and playing play-off rugby it is just the cherry on top for me.

“It’s a moment you want to make the most of with you team mates and just enjoy the moment and that’s the basic message for the younger guys, just enjoy it and enjoy the moment and grow with all the experience.”

Ulster keeping faith with the 28-capped South African international and standing by him during his dark days, was huge in his decision to stay with the Province.

“It was massive and played a big part in my re-signing.

“At one stage I was thinking that I was done with the club and I’ve only played four games here and that would have been a heavy burden on me leaving this club.

“But they’ve invested so much in me and when it came to that moment when they decided that they were going to stick with me that was just that extra motivation to get back and get on the pitch.

“And hopefully you will have seen from my performances this season that I really appreciated that time frame in which we’ve been here for me and my wife.

“I’m just happy to reward them and to be in a play-off spot is just humbling.”