Ulster fear Marcell Coetzee injury could rule him out for season
South African backrower injures same knee that kept him out for year with ACL tear
Marcell Coetzee (centre) has endured an injury-plagued season. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Presseye/Inpho
Though Ulster should have Ireland internationals Paddy Jackson, Iain Henderson and Jared Payne available for Friday night’s vital Pro12 game at the Dragons, they are now resigned to being without South African number eight Marcell Coetzee for the rest of the season.
The dynamic Springbok was playing only his fourth game for the province in the record 68-21 tanking of Zebre two weekends ago when he damaged the same knee which had kept him sidelined for nearly a year following an ACL tear he suffered playing for the Sharks last April.
To lose him at this juncture of the campaign, with fourth-placed Ulster essentially battling with the Scarlets to secure a playoff place, is a massive blow for Les Kiss’s plans in the wake of the province’s recent good form which has seen them move into the top four after securing 24 from a possible 25 points on offer.
The 25-year-old backrower was due to have surgery on Wednesday and a clearer prognosis is expected to be known later this week with the worst-case scenario being further ACL damage which would potentially mean nearly another year out of the game.
“It could be six to nine months out, depending on the severity,” said Les Kiss.
“And the best case is maybe six weeks so we don’t hold high hopes [of him returning this season].”
Ulster may ultimately be heading down the route of sourcing another backrow player to deploy as a ‘medical joker’ should Coetzee turn out to be a long-term casualty.
Jackson, who was on the Ireland bench against England last weekend, should return to the outhalf slot for the game at Rodney Parade where, notably, Ulster have struggled in recent times.
Even though both Henderson – who scored the only try in the defeat of England – and Payne played a full 80 minutes last Saturday, Kiss expects to be able to deploy both for what is another must-win game in Ulster’s drive to secure a playoff place.
Centres Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave are also available again after their injury issues, while Stuart Olding, Craig Gilroy and Luke Marshall – the latter due to win his 100th Ulster cap – are also good to go after spending last week in Ireland camp.