Ulster have hailed Marcell Coetzee’s three-year contract extension, claiming the 27-year-old South African is primed to produce the best rugby of his career after shaking off an injury-hit start in Belfast.
The Springbok played just 290 minutes during his first two years at the club, starting only five matches due to repeated knee ligament damage.
However, Coetzee has come through that horrendous ordeal to lead Ulster’s charge to this season’s Champions Cup knockout stages and secure a juicy quarter-final in Dublin against defending champions Leinster.
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) February 6, 2019
Coetzee’s previous truncated seasons in Ireland had sparked speculation that the club could move on their costly overseas signing, but they have now moved to keep the back row on board after he influentially featured in 17 of the club’s 20 matches this term. His massive 1,151-minute contribution has seen him top the club’s carrying, tackling and turnovers won statistics for the season.
“I want to thank everyone for standing by my side over the past three seasons,” said Coetzee. “It was a really tough mental and physical battle with the injuries, but I’m grateful for the support I had during that time and I’m determined to repay the faith shown in me.
“I can’t wait to see what the next three years holds personally for me and my wife and for the club. We have a young, hungry squad that is clearly moving in the right direction under our coaching team. We have a lot of hard work to do, but I know that the entire organisation is focused on delivering success.”
Ulster have been revived this season with Dan McFarland taking over from the ousted Les Kiss, who was released last January following the club’s failure to progress from their European pool during his three years at the helm.
“Marcell has been phenomenal for us this season and it’s a massive boost that he has chosen to remain at the club, even with significant interest from other clubs,” enthused McFarland.
“He’s been through some difficult times since he arrived here and I’m delighted that he’s got a good run of games and performed at the level we know he’s capable of. At 27 years of age, we believe we are yet to witness some of his best rugby.
“Marcell provides real presence both on and off the field, and is an example of what determination and persistence can achieve. His influence and knowledge as an experienced international player has been great for our young players and he will continue to play a key role in helping to develop our indigenous forwards.”
New CEO Jonny Petrie added: “This is a big statement of intent and a great endorsement of the rugby programme we have in place under Dan. We’re an ambitious club and it’s encouraging that players of the calibre of Marcell want to be part of our future plans, which I believe to be hugely exciting.”
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