Marcell Coetzee’s knee injury not as bad as first feared

South African did not suffer recurrence of ACL that delayed him making his Ulster debut

Marcell Coetzee will undergo surgery to repair a significant tear to the cartilage in a knee. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho/Presseye

Marcell Coetzee will undergo surgery to repair a significant tear to the cartilage in a knee. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Inpho/Presseye

 

Newport Gwent Dragons v Ulster, Rodney Parade, Friday, 7.35pm, live BBC 2

There was a silver lining to the news that Ulster backrow Marcell Coetzee would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a significant tear to the cartilage in a knee, in that the damage was not as bad as first feared.

The initial prognosis was that the 25-year-old South African may have ruptured the same ACL upon which he had surgery in April of last year and that subsequently delayed his debut for Ulster until last month. However, the damage is less severe, albeit that he will be sidelined until pre-season training.

It is a blow for the 28-times capped Springbok, outstanding in the three games that he played for the Irish province before injury, and he will certainly be missed by his team-mates as they try and chase down a spot in a Guinness Pro12 semi-final.

Ulster’s director of rugby, Les Kiss expressed his relief: “It really is fantastic news. I think most people feared the worst, so it’s great to hear that he will be back sooner than we initially expected.

“He has had a tremendous impact since he joined the club, not only on the pitch, but also on the training paddock with his huge work ethic and infectious positive attitude. It’s a great boost for the club, the supporters and most importantly Marcell himself that we will see him back in an Ulster jersey at the start of next season.”

The priority for Kiss, though, is Friday night’s game and there is no wriggle room, results-wise, if Ulster want to make the playoffs. Jared Payne and Iain Henderson are fresh from Ireland’s victory over England and slot in at fullback and blindside flanker respectively.

Stuart Olding, man-of-the-match the last day, continues at outhalf – Paddy Jackson is among the replacements – while Luke Marshall reaches a notable milestone in winning his 100th cap for the province. It’s a stellar backline with Jackson and Jacob Stockdale to come off the bench.

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) will take over the beleaguered Dragons franchise which mightn’t do much for the morale of the current playing staff.

Ulster need a five-point haul from this match, because much tougher assignments await in the coming weeks, and are certainly good enough to manage that challenge.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: C Meyer; A Hughes, T Morgan, S Beard, T Prydie; A O’Brien, C Davies; S Hobbs, R Buckley, B Harris; N Croswell, R Landman; O Griffiths, N Cudd, L Evans (capt).

Replacements: D Harris, P Price, L Fairbrother, M Screech, H Keddie, S Pretorious, D Jones, A Warren.

ULSTER: J Payne; C Gilroy, L Marshall, D Cave, C Piutau; S Olding, R Pienaar; A Warwick, R Herring (capt), W Herbst; K Treadwell, A O’Connor; I Henderson, C Henry, S Reidy.

Replacements: J Andrew, C Black, R Ah You, R Diack, C Ross, P Marshall, P Jackson, J Stockdale.

Referee: M Adamson (Scotland)

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