Springboks

Marcell to 'fetch' Flo's jersey

Cape Town - Marcell Coetzee's has stuck up his hand for Springbok selection after adding the "fetcher" feather to his cap for the Sharks, to add to his already impressive workrate.

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Last year in the Springboks' June Test against Scotland at the Mbombela Stadium, Francois Louw's release from the Springbok squad in preparation for his wedding day created a quandary for coach Heyneke Meyer.

The Springbok coach's persistent refusal to pick Heinrich Brüssow meant the team was without a flank who could create turnovers at the breakdown and slow the opposition's ball down.

Meyer said he was eager to take a look at other players who could play the role of "fetcher".

Coetzee was tasked with replacing Louw, with Siya Kolisi deputising on the bench.

At the time neither Coetzee nor Kolisi were regarded as being in the classic fetcher mould, but Meyer hinted that they would have to add that string to their bows if they wanted to be considered for selection.

"They have to show me that they can specialise in that role. If not, I will have to consider other options. Even a guy like a Heinrich Brüssow could come into contention," Heyneke said at the time.

Meyer was almost left red-faced in the match that followed, as his tactics seemed to backfire.

The Scottish, and flank Alasdair Strokosch in particular, ran rampant, causing havoc at the breakdown and only a yellow card to Scottish lock Jim Hamilton in the 52nd minute turned the tide in favour of the Springboks, with late tries from JJ Engelbrecht and substitute Jan Serfontein giving the game an appearance of respectability against the visitors who were bereft of their British and Irish Lions representatives.

The 30-16 scoreline made the Test appear far more one-sided than it actually was.

Coetzee had been schooled at the breakdown, while Kolisi, who came on in the fifth minute after blindside flank Arno Botha sustained a serious injury, won the man of the match award, to leave Coetzee's position in the Springbok squad under threat.

Coetzee was subsequently dropped and it became clear that if he wanted his Springbok place back, he would have to reinvent himself in the fetcher mould.

However, Coetzee seems to have taken Meyer's words to heart and his hard work and persistence in approaching the breakdown appears to have paid dividends as he has evolved his game to become a more complete player.

Since Jake White's arrival at the Sharks, Coetzee has taken on his roles at openside flank with a new-found relish, stealing vital balls at the breakdown.

Currently the flank sits second in the Super Rugby table in terms of turnovers won, with only hooker Adriaan Strauss having won more in the competition.

If the 22-year-old continues to improve the incumbent Springbok openside flank Louw may well have to start looking over his shoulder...

Super Rugby leaders in turnovers won after Round 7:

11: Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs)
9: Marcell Coetzee (Sharks)
9: Matt Hodgson (Force)
8: Deon Fourie (Stormers)
8: Jack Lam (Hurricanes)

Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats


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