Durban — It is exactly a decade since Marcell Coetzee made his debut for the Springboks and three years since he last played a Test match so he can be excused for saying that his recall is as special as the first time.
He is now 31 and has just 30 Tests to his name because of a combination of crippling injuries and confused coaches. But just when the Springbok door seemed forever shut to him, suddenly he is starting against Wales in Bloemfontein on Saturday and he can’t quite believe it.
“When I heard my name being read out a few weeks ago it was as unbelievable as the first time,” the genial giant smiled. “Believe me, you never take it for granted. I last played n 2019 (two matches) and before that, there was a four-year gap (in the wilderness), and in those breaks, you realise what you had when you were with the Boks and how much you want it back…
“So being back in the system is phenomenal. When I first walked back into the camp it was so special to see my old pals, guys like Eben (Etzebeth) and Pieter-Steph (du Toit), and you know you are back in the family, and then you meet the faces that are new to you. That is what the Springboks are all about — the blending together of different personalities.”
Speaking of Du Toit, Coetzee says he is thrilled to be packing down with him and Evan Roos in a loose trio that has the rugby world excited.
“Pieter-Steph was the world player of the year (in 2019) so he brings massive experience and class; Evan has had an exceptional season for the Stormers so it is good for him to be rewarded. He has incredible potential,” the Bulls captain said. “The challenge for us as a loose trio is to quickly build the synergy and cohesion from our various strengths. But yes, these are men you want next to you and we can’t wait for the weekend.”
Coetzee is back in the Boks because the coaches simply could not ignore what he has been consistently doing with the Bulls and for Ulster before that, and he was asked if he takes the field with a preconceived plan of how he is going to play.
“Not really,” he said. “It is about seizing the moment and creating opportunities and just taking them. I love creating play from moment to moment — that is what the game is about. There will be tough times when you have to grind it out, but then suddenly the game can change and you must be ready to take what comes.
“And at international level, every Test match is unique and special,” he continued. “Whether it is the All Blacks or Wales or whoever, no two Tests are the same, each has its own flavour. You just take on the responsibility of being as prepared as you possibly can be for whatever comes at you and seize the moment.”