Quintin van Jaarsveld
Durban – Sharks loose forward Marcell Coetzee says he plans to â€œwreak havocâ€� should he make his Springbok debut against England at Kings Park on Saturday. Kick-off is at 17:00.
Coetzeeâ€™s, 21, rapid rise through the ranks has been nothing short of remarkable. The hard-hitting back rower has gone from promising club talent to bona fide Vodacom Super Rugby star and Springbok squad member in just 18 short months.
Initially a specialist eighthman, Coetzee was shifted to the side of the scrum by Sharks XV coach Sean Everitt last year, where he proved equally adept and carved out a reputation as an industrious, all-round back rower.
An outstanding Vodacom Cup campaign led to a Vodacom Super Rugby debut against the Brumbies on May 7, a day before his 20th birthday. He went on to make a try-scoring Absa Currie Cup debut against the Blue Bulls on July 16 and was acknowledged as the 2011 Sharks XV Vodacom Cup Player of the Year. Coetzee has flawlessly made the step up to Super Rugby this year and has been a revelation in his maiden season.
The energetic Coetzee comfortably tops the overall tackles-made list with 220, 17 more than second-placed Cheetahs back rower Philip van der Walt and a whopping 31 and 46 more than New Zealand and Australiaâ€™s finest in Crusaders flank Matt Todd and new Wallaby captain David Pocock respectively.
Not only a defensive Trojan, the Sharks Academy product is also a prominent ball-carrier, boasting leading figures of more than 400 metres gained in over 80 carries, with over 30 tackle busts.
His ever-improving ability to manufacture turnovers at the breakdown and composure beyond his years make him the total package capable of playing every position in the back row.
His tireless work rate, appetite for tackling and efficiency as apex ball-carrier have not gone unnoticed by Meyer, who is expected to include the dynamic youngster in his matchday 22 for Saturdayâ€™s season-opening international in Durban when he announces his side on Wednesday afternoon.
One of nine uncapped players included in the Springbok squad of 32 for the three-Test series against England, Coetzee was with his family on a farm just outside Centurion following the clash against the Lions when the announcement was made.
â€œIt was a very emotional moment. I remember closing my eyes and just thanking God. There was a huge amount of euphoria going around and it was great that I got to experience it with my family,â€� Coetzee told SARugby.com
â€œIt exceeded all my expectations. A year ago I was playing Vodacom Cup and a bit of Currie Cup and now suddenly Iâ€™m in the Springbok group.
â€œIf you look at the path God has walked with me; it was hard at school not making Craven Week. After school I said to God, â€˜God, here is my talent, do with it as you pleaseâ€™ and two years later Iâ€™m in a Springbok camp, so it just shows what God can do if you put your dreams in his hands.â€�
Coetzee said being in the Springbok camp ignites his passion and inspires him to take his game to a higher level. â€œItâ€™s very humbling being around such talented players and it motivates you to work even harder and become a better player.â€�
Speaking about the weekendâ€™s Test and his possible inclusion in the side, Coetzee said, â€œThere is a chance of that, but at the moment Iâ€™m just happy to be in the squad. If it were to be that I play this Saturday it would be awesome.â€�
As fate would have it, Saturdayâ€™s Test will be played in Durban, where Coetzee made his Vodacom Cup, Vodacom Super Rugby and Absa Currie Cup debuts.
He was on the winning side on each of those occasions and concedes that the possibility of pulling the green and gold jersey over his head for the first time at his home ground is surreal.
â€œWhat a coincidence that would be,â€� he said. â€œI have an immense support base in Durban and it would be like playing in my own backyard. As I said, though, Iâ€™m just chuffed to be in the squad. It hasnâ€™t sunk in yet.â€�
Should he run on to the field on Saturday, Coetzee has one objective in mind. â€œI want to go out there and wreak havoc. Iâ€™d be so pumped and psyched up that Iâ€™d just want to bring my physical game and contribute to the team.â€�