RUGBY: Ulster still without injured Coetzee

Marcell Coetzee
Marcell Coetzee

Ulster are still without backrow forward Marcell Coetzee as he continued to recover from a knee injury.

Although the impressive South African has not been massively missed on the pitch since he played in their opening game against Cheetahs four weeks ago, with a big October coming up for the Province his presence would be preferred.

Ulster have gone four from four in the Guinness PRO14 and sit top of Conference B, two points ahead of Scarlets.

They are expected to consolidate that position this weekend when they travel to Italy to face perennial strugglers, Zebre.

However, with games against Connacht (Oct 6) and then the first two European Champions Cup matches against Wasps (home Oct 13), La Rochelle (away Oct 22) and a huge PRO14 Irish Derby at home against Leinster on October 28, Ulster are keen to have close to their frontline team available.

With captain Rory Best also set to miss the European games with a hamstring tear, the likes of the influential Coetzee will be vital if Ulster are to make an impact in their European pool early on.

Since joining Ulster at the start of the 2016-17 season, he has only managed five appearances, the last of those coming against Cheetahs on the opening day of the new PRO14 campaign.

The Springbok wing-forward has had two bad knee injuries in recent years but Ulster have again reiterated that his current knee issue is not serious amid speculation he could be set for another long spell in the medical room.

Scrum coach, Aaron Dundon, confirmed on Tuesday that Coetzee would not be ready to face the Italian side.

Pressed further he added: “It’s a tough one (on when he may return). It’s week by week management.

Honestly I don’t think he’s far away, he trained last week and got through it well.

“We’ve got a big four games coming up so we have to make sure he’s available for then.”

There was better news elsewhere on the injury front with fellow South African backrow Jean Deysel a possible returnee from injury.

Deysel missed Ulster’s last two wins over Scarlets and Dragons due to an eye injury.

Luke Marshall is also set to return having missed last week’s game and halfbacks, John Cooney and Christian Leali’ifano are also expected to return having been rested for the Dragons game.

Paul Marshall, who had started at scrumhalf last weekend, and Rodney Ah You both suffered cuts to their heads and it was still a case of wait and see to their availability.

Ulster go to face a Zebre side buoyed up after a big win over Southern Kings in South Africa last Saturday.

Ulster’s away form has been poor in recent seasons and three weeks ago in Italy they struggled to put Benetton Treviso away, holding on to win 21-14 having led 21-0 at one stage.

Dundon, who joined Ulster over the summer as part of the new coaching set-up, said: “It’s going to be a tough challenge. The Italian teams are better this year than they have been in the past.

“They’re always difficult at home and they’re coming off a good win last week, and the last three or four games they’ve actually been scoring a lot of tries.

“You don’t break them down until the last 15 minutes, they stay in the game, it’s always close.

“The Scarlets played them and didn’t really broke away in the last 15 minutes.

“You need an 80 minute performance against these guys, they never go away,” he added.