Coetzee will add to the Lions roar

South African rugby players, previously enamored with playing abroad, are keen to return to South Africa for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship – and among the latest to return to the Republic is full-back Andries Coetzee.

A relative veteran at 32, Coetzee played 149 games for the Emirates Lions between 2011 and 2018, but in 2019 he sought a new challenge at the Kinetsuy Liners.

Covid hit and Coetzee’s contribution to the Liners lasted two matches before linking up with glamorous Italian club Benetton in the inaugural Vodacom United Rugby Championship.

He has made nine appearances at the end of the 2021/22 league season, including a visit against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg.

Coetzee earlier in the year was a player in transit and the lure of being able to play for a South African side in what is South Africa’s premier international regional rugby competition proved irresistible for Coetzee, who in 2017 started at the back for the Springboks in 13 successive Tests.

It’s no surprise he’s settled in immediately for the only team he’s known in South Africa, and the Emirates Lions will be the strongest of his presence.

Coetzee’s return aligns with several top South African players who want to be back in South Africa to play in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.

The return of DHL Stormers striker Deon Fourie to Cape Town after a decade in France proved sensational and Fourie, 35, became the oldest player in history to make his debut for the Springboks.

Fourie’s domestic rise screamed out the opportunities and possibilities of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. The number of South African players in the league who were invited to Springbok team training and then selected for the Springboks let players know that the league, apart from being one of the most competitive in the sport , was also a springboard to the national. selection.

Players did not necessarily have to leave South Africa to pursue their international careers. The Vodacom URC, in its inaugural season, was synonymous with quality and opportunity.

South African players with experience abroad wanted to return and each of the four South African league teams were bolstered by the return of highly experienced players from abroad.

South Africa’s powerful arrival in the league last season, with three of the four teams in the play-offs, and the DHL Stormers’ monumental home play-off winning streak, immediately confirmed South Africa’s presence in the the DNA of a league that is positioned to be among the most sought after in global gaming.

Coetzee, playing for Benetton, appreciated the league’s value to the growth of Italian rugby, and he also got a taste of what it meant to play in South Africa again.

It didn’t take long to convince the Emirates Lions to agree to terms with Coetzee, whose seniority will be key to the fortunes of a young and exciting Lions fullback division.

Lions fly-half Jordan Hendrikse is on the national radar, despite being 21 years old. Hendrikse played for the Springboks 7 earlier in the year and was among the Emirates Lions’ most notable players during last season’s Vodacom URC.

Coetzee’s strong kicking game will complement Hendrikse and the duo, one left-handed and the other right-handed, one in the twilight of his career and the other at the start, will combine to make the Emirates Lions very difficult to beat. beat, especially at high altitudes in Johannesburg.

Charles P. Patton