It’s been said before here – in fact, many times over during the course of the last two years – but I think that on the eve of his first Springbok cap, we need to once again point out exactly how proud we are of young Marcell Coetzee.
To say that Coetzee’s rise to rugby glory over that period has been meteoric would be something of an understatement. This is a young man who was snubbed at every conceivable opportunity by the supposedly knowledgeable folks who run the junior game, with his somewhat unfashionable high school seemingly putting the kibosh on his Craven Week selection chances. With so much dependant on attending this one-off event, many an aspiring schoolboy rugby player can find any hopes of a senior career dashed before they even turn 18, thanks to the cruel strokes of these wise men’s pen. With no representative caps at schoolboy level, Coetzee went about building his reputation the hard way, yet after a decent under 19 season in 2010 that saw him called up to the Vodacom Cup squad the year afterwards, he was yet again snubbed as the SA Under 20 selectors collected their chosen players together last year.
After just two matches for the Sharks XV, in which he was the clear MVP and simple a cut above the others playing in that competition, Coetzee received a surprise call-up to join the Sharks Super Rugby tour squad and although he didn’t play on that tour, went on to make his debut against the Brumbies a few weeks later. Despite quickly establishing himself as a regular in the Super Rugby side, Dawie Theron and his under 20 selectors continued to ignore Coetzee, allowing players such as Arno Botha and Siya Kolisi to establish star reputations in the IRB Junior World Championship whilst Coetzee was cutting his teeth at Super Rugby level.
The trend continued in the Currie Cup, with Marcell scoring a try on debut in the first match and going on to become a fixture in the starting lineup, even keeping Jacques Botes out of the match 22 for the final. In the 2012 Super Rugby season to date, Coetzee’s name is probably the first written onto the team sheet each week and based on the superb work he’s put in for the Sharks over the course of 14 matches, Port Natal’s 21-year-old former captain was duly named this week to start his first test, against England at Kings Park. He’ll become that school’s second test Springbok after Gert Muller, who played 14 tests in the 60s and 70s.
Marcell – congrats to you mate. You’ve done superbly well and we couldn’t be any prouder of you. Remember, though, that this great honour is just the start of a brand new road that you need to take and that all of your achievements in Currie Cup and Super Rugby count for very little in the international arena. Starting on Saturday, you’ll again be a pretty small fish in a big pond and the challenge is to start carving out a new – and even bigger – reputation on the biggest stage there is. We know that you have all the skills you need to do just that, but even more importantly, we know that you have the correct attitude, as you have shown before. Keep doing your best, keep learning, keep working as hard as ever and know that your fans here at Sharksworld will always, always, be behind you every step of the way.
We’d also like to congratulate Dries, Delia, Andrea, Armand and any other members of the Coetzee family that we may have missed out. Your boy continues to do you (and us) proud and I cannot express in words how deeply pleased I am that you are all part of the Sharks family!Tweet