Ulster's Les Kiss defiant after Marcell Coetzee nine-month injury blow
With confirmation yesterday that Ulster's star signing Marcell Coetzee faces knee surgery and nine months on the sidelines, Director of Rugby Les Kiss expressed his disappointment at the news but the province are still looking forward to eventually welcoming the flanker to the Kingspan.
The Springbok was expected to arrive this summer but injured his ACL playing for his current club, the Sharks, in Super Rugby over the weekend.
"It's an unfortunate incident," said Kiss. "We've been in touch with him but we'll let that take its course and worry about what's in front of us here and now. That's the truth of it.
"It's well documented what's happened but we have to get on with it."
Despite some reports to the contrary, the team's Operations Manager Bryn Cunningham moved to assure supporters that Coetzee will still join up with the team as planned, even if his bow will be somewhat delayed.
"I have been speaking with both Marcell and his agent over the weekend to express our sympathy with the injury," said the 1999 European Cup winner.
"It is incredibly unlucky but unfortunately it is the nature of any contact sport.
"We have been discussing rehab schedules and other finer details, but most importantly an arrival time for next season, which will be finalised in the next few weeks.
"Marcell is already taking a positive outlook, such is the character of the individual, and he is really excited about getting fitter and stronger than ever to excel for Ulster next season and beyond."
In recent seasons, Ulster's medical team have helped both Stuart Olding and Tommy Bowe back from serious knee ligament injuries.
Regardless, with Coetzee being counted on to replace the departing Nick Williams, Ulster could find themselves short of back-row options in the early months of the 2016-17 campaign.
Kiss said it was too early to speculate on whether a short-term signing will be required to cover the 24-year-old's absence.
"Myself and Bryn had a good discussion about things as they stand," added the Australia. "It's no use speculating too much at this stage.
"We talk about our roster on a daily basis and have an in-depth discussion on a weekly basis so we're always managing things.
"Ultimately we'll tap out the line again, we worry about what we've got rather than what we don't have.
"At the moment we've a team in front of us that has to develop and prepare for Zebre."
Unfortunately for Kiss, there are plenty of injury concerns there too with McCloskey (shoulder), Williams (shoulder/groin), Louis Ludik (groin), Wiehahn Herbst (foot) and Alan O'Connor (shoulder) all expected to miss the trip to Parma on Saturday, where a bonus-point win is vital in their play-off bid.
In better news, Bowe should make his first provincial appearance of the season after banking 40 minutes of action in last week's 'A' game against Munster.
"It was great for Tommy to be able to get 40 minutes under his belt," said Kiss. "He came through quite well. Cavey (Darren Cave) had a game as well as he's been working through an illness. Andy Warwick and Rory Scholes, the same.
"Louis Ludik is still doubtful for this week. The news on Stuart McCloskey is probably on the negative side in terms of this week. That's the reality of it. We'll get further news on Alan O'Connor's injury in the next day or two; you have to let that kind of thing settle to have an idea where it is.
"Nick (Williams) doesn't look like he's improving at a rate of knots. That puts us in a position where we have to assess that for the rest of the year but we'll see how he goes the rest of this week and into next week."