Major coup for Ulster as Springboks star Marcell Coetzee agrees move
Ulster Rugby will confirm the signing of South African Marcell Coetzee in the coming weeks with the 28-times capped Springbok arriving on a three-year deal in time for the 2016/17 campaign.
Sources in the player's homeland have confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph that the back-rower is on his way to Kingspan Stadium in what is another transfer coup for a side who have already secured the services of All Black Charles Piutau for next season.
Coetzee has almost a year and a half left on his current deal with the Sharks, having just finished a short stint with Honda Heat in the lucrative Japanese league, but will swap Durban for Belfast after the conclusion of the Super Rugby season this summer.
The news puts to bed months of speculation regarding who will fill the final non-Irish qualified spot for the province next season and take the place of the Cardiff-bound Nick Williams.
Director of rugby Les Kiss recently promised fans that team manager Bryn Cunningham had secured an exciting replacement for the popular Kiwi with Coetzee certainly fitting the bill.
Reports last week had linked Ulster with a move for his Sharks teammate Ryan Kankowski but those were found to be wide of the mark and the arrival instead of a 24-year-old, current international will be considered a hugely useful addition to a back-row unit that has relied heavily upon experienced veterans in recent seasons.
With Cunningham having already struck a deal to keep Coetzee's former Sharks teammate Louis Ludik for a further year until he qualifies for Ireland on residency, Ulster's four-strong contingent of NIQs will consist of Springboks Coetzee, scrum-half Ruan Pienaar and lock Franco van der Merwe, as well as Piutau.
Despite not making it to last year's World Cup after an ill-timed knee injury in the months leading up to the tournament, Coetzee was a regular in former coach Heyneke Meyer's squads during recent seasons and was a try-scorer when the Boks played Ireland in Dublin in 2014.
He is currently in France for pre-season with the Sharks where, with Pat Lambie absent, he will captain the side tomorrow against Toulouse in a friendly.
Official confirmation of the deal is not expected to come until after Coetzee’s final Super Rugby season with his hometown team has kicked off.
The Sharks campaign begins against the Kings on February 27.
Coetzee's arrival will continue a long association between Ulster and the Natal side.
Pienaar, Ludik, van der Merwe and Wiehahn Herbst have all represented the Sharks in the past, as did previous imports such as Johann Muller, Robbie Kempson, BJ Botha and Stefan Terblanche.