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Coetzee to be Jake's fetcher

Fri, 24 Jan 2014 08:15
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I was a 16-year-old boy when Jake won the World Cup
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Sharks loose forward Marcell Coetzee aims to reinvent himself and establish himself as South Africa’s next top fetcher this season.

Coetzee, a powerful ball carrier and excellent defender with a tireless workrate, can play anywhere in the back row, but has primarily played at blindside flank for both the Sharks and Springboks since he burst on to the scene in 2011.

A sensational Super Rugby season the following year saw Coetzee being included in Heyneke Meyer’s maiden squad.

He made his Springbok debut as a 21-year-old against England in Durban on 9 June 2012 and went on to play in each of the 12 Tests that year.

His dream debut international season was always going to be a difficult act to follow and Coetzee, despite some superlative performances for the Sharks, made just three appearances for the Springboks last season, two of those as a replacement, with Willem Alberts making the No.7 green and gold jersey his own and Siya Kolisi utilised as an impact player off the bench.

Coetzee is determined to get more game time for the Springboks this year and cement his place in the matchday side heading into next year’s World Cup in England.

He believes the time is right to make the switch to openside flank, where he will challenge Bath-based Francois Louw for the Springbok No. 6 jersey.

“I see myself as a No. 6 now and I’m going to put a lot of emphasis on my breakdown work this year in order to become a top No.6,” Coetzee told this website.

“I want to establish myself as a leading fetcher ahead of the World Cup, become a more well-rounded player, perhaps a line-out option, and fulfil my potential as a loose forward. I’m hungry to reclaim my spot in the Bok squad and to be in the matchday side for every Test.”

The 22-year-old feels he didn’t live up to his own lofty standards last season, but took valuable lessons from the experience - which he believes will shape him into a better player this year.

“I strive to be better every time I play and take my game to a higher level every year so in that regard it was a bit of an up and down year for me last season, but it was a good learning curve,” he said.

“I learned a lot about the finer aspects of the game and about myself as a player. I would have liked to get more game time for the Boks but that’s the exciting part about the new year, it’s a fresh start and hopefully I can use what I learned last year and grow as a player.”

Coetzee said the highlight of his 2013 season was the Sharks’ surprise 33-19 win over Western Province in the Currie Cup Final at Newlands.

Coetzee, who started the decider in the No.6 jersey, said: “It was such an overwhelming experience. Prior to that, I had played in three finals and lost three finals, so I was ecstatic and incredibly grateful.

"The whole build-up was fantastic. Brendan Venter came up with a plan and everyone bought into it. We went in as underdogs and decided we’re not going to give it to Province on a plate. They hurt us quite badly the previous year, so we went all out and I was overjoyed when the final whistle went.”

Coetzee said he’s honoured to be training under the tutelage of new Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White and believes the World Cup-winning former Springbok coach will help take his game to new heights.

“I was a 16-year-old boy when Jake won the World Cup, so it’s a privilege to be playing under him. He’s a rugby genius. He has an excellent tactical understanding of the game and he’s direct in what he wants from each player.

“Jake brings a lot of experience with him and he came close to winning Super Rugby last year when he took the Brumbies back to the summit of Australian rugby.

“I’m very excited to be working with Jake and the whole management and I’m bound to evolve as a player under his guidance.”

Coetzee added White has already shaken things up in the Shark Tank.

“The pre-season training has been very intense, much tougher than previous years. There’s a lot of emphasis on getting the details right.

"With our gameplan you have to be super fit so there’s an emphasis on conditioning as well. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and it’s a step in the right direction.”

* Coetzee won't be heading to London with the Sharks for their pre-season outing against Saracens on Saturday.

He is one of three players who are out injured.

Aside from the withdrawal of Coetzee due to an elbow injury, fellow Springboks Frans Steyn and Keegan Daniel also stayed in South Africa after picking up injuries in training.

Teams:

Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 James Short, 13 Michael Tagicakibau, 12 Marcelo Bosch, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Justin Melck, Mouritz Botha, Steve Borthwick (captain), Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.  
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Tom Jubb, 20 Takashi Kikutani, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Sam Stanley.

Sharks: 15 Tyler Fisher, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Tera Mtembu, 5 Pieter-Steph Du Toit, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 Jaco van Tonder.

Date: Saturday, February 25
Venue: Allianz Park, London
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 16.30 SA time)
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Gareth Copsey (England)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)

By Quintin van Jaarsveld

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