No more jack of all trades

2015-02-12 00:00

WHILE Richie McCaw and the retired George Smith have dominated the murky underworld of breakdown play for the past decade, Sharks flank Marcell Coetzee is determined to join them as a master of the turnover.

The 23-year-old flank has been a revelation for province and country since he came on to the scene in 2011. Although he is slightly behind Francois Louw in the Springbok pecking order, he seems destined to make the number-six jersey his own in the next few years.

While some critics have called for Coetzee to be more dynamic on attack — he tends to bulldoze rather than look for the short pass or offloads — he has honed his defensive play and is becoming a top-class fetcher.

Coetzee has put that down to the work of Springbok defence coach Richie Gray, as well as a new focus on the breakdown at the Sharks.

“We really pride ourselves on the break down. It’s a new thing we’ve brought in since last year. We want to put a lot of emphasis on that area. We think that is where games are won or lost,” Coetzee said.

That focus also suits Coetzee, as he wants to focus solely on being an opensider after a few years being a jack of all trades but master of none.

“In the past, I played six, seven and eight, so I didn’t really get a chance to specialise in one position. I really wanted to go in for six because I thought it was the best position for me at the time. Luckily, the hard work with Richie Gray paid off, he put a lot of work into me and I love the breakdown now.”

After an impressive 2014, Coetzee got the New Year off with a bang against Toulon last week in what was a tight forward tussle. Never shy of the contact, the young Bok enjoyed himself thoroughly, while the team took plenty away from the 12-10 win.

“I think our confidence is up. Toulon was a big ­physical game, a big test and we just wanted to put our structures into place — unluckily the weather didn’t help us there. But to come away with a win against Toulon in France, we were really happy and we ticked the boxes we wanted to.”

The Sharks have welcomed back Jean Deysel this week ahead of their Cheetahs game — adding another name into a bunch of quality loose forwards in Durban. With players like Renaldo Bothma and Tera Mtembu putting their hands up for selection, Coetzee admits it keeps everyone honest.

“It’s awesome to have Jean back. He’s a great player, great leader off the field and a great man to have in your team. He’s brought in a ­positive vibe and energy on the field. With Renaldo and others coming into the squad, it expands the talent in the ­loosies department.”

The Sharks face the Cheetahs in their first Super Rugby clash this weekend and although the Free State side have lost a number of big names to other unions, Coetzee is expecting another tough South African derby.

“There were some big losses for them but the new guys like Willie Britz and Danie Minnie will want to step up and prove a point. There is no weak side in ­Super Rugby, that stigma is gone. Every game you have to step up or else you will fall on your back, so we can’t take that as a mental aspect.”

The game starts at 5.05 pm at King’s Park, Durban. The Sharks are set to announce their side today.

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