The award not only celebrates the player’s performances on the pitch, it also helps a cause close to their heart off of it, with a $100 donation going to the charity of their choosing.
Herschel Jantjies of the Stormers and Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes were among the winners of the award last season, whilst the inaugural award went to Rory Hutchinson of Northampton Saints, in what was a breakout campaign for the young centre.
As for Coetzee, he has been at the forefront of Ulster’s efforts over the past month, leading them to wins over Zebre and Scarlets in the Guinness PRO14, as well as hard-fought victories over Bath and Clermont in the Heineken Champions Cup. In fact, Ulster’s only loss in the month of November, a 22-16 defeat to Munster, was the one game that Coetzee did not feature in.
In addition to being a lynchpin in Ulster’s contact area work, both a predatory threat to steal ball and a precise and powerful force on the clear-out, Coetzee has also become the province’s go-to ball-carrier in the pack. In a move that mirrors the evolution of Francois Louw at Bath over the years, Coetzee has become integral to his side’s ability to get over the gain-line, as well as preventing the opposition from doing likewise.
The South African has provided an additional voice of leadership and experience following the departure of Rory Best and he has complemented the impressive job done by Iain Henderson as captain so far.
Injuries may have cruelly denied Coetzee a shot at the recent Rugby World Cup, though the loose forward has spoken recently about targeting the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 2021 and based on his current performances, the Springboks could do much worse than keeping him involved in the group moving forward.
At the club level, European rugby returns after just a week’s absence next weekend and if Coetzee can lead his side to back-to-back victories over Harlequins, Ulster will be in complete control of Pool 3 and a strong candidate to bag a home quarter-final come January.
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