Coetzee's injury woe will delay Ulster bow
Ulster's plans for next season have been thrown into disarray with reports that star signing Marcell Coetzee could be out of action for nine months.
The Springbok flanker is due to join from Super Rugby's Sharks franchise this summer but sustained a knee against the Lions on Saturday.
A marquee replacement for the Cardiff-bound No.8 Nick Williams, Coetzee was expected to bolster the European hopes of Les Kiss' men after successive failures to get out of their pool. Now, it seems as if the 24-year-old will miss all six group games as well as some key PRO12 encounters before making his debut in early 2017.
For a side who have struggled to get all their front-liners fit at the same time - two weeks ago against Connacht was the first time the Irish contingent of Rory Best, Chris Henry, Iain Henderson, Andrew Trimble and Iain Henderson had played together since the final game of the 2013-14 campaign - it is a huge blow, especially considering Coetzee's arrival was viewed as a coup when revealed in this paper back in February.
Given the injury, and Williams' departure, Ulster have to consider whether they need to delve into the market once again.
With Henderson, and perhaps Henry, expected to be involved in Ireland's four Tests in November, it could be an area of particular concern. For now, the focus is on the remainder of this campaign and Ulster were not in action this weekend but lost ground to fellow top-four chasers Glasgow, who earned a bonus-point win over Zebre on Friday night.
Kiss' men meet the Italians on Saturday and go into the weekend sitting fifth, three points off Scarlets in the final play-off spot.