CAPE TOWN – Marcell Coetzee has already changed his Twitter bio to reflect Pretoria as his home city now, and expressed his excitement after landing in South Africa to begin his journey at the Blue Bulls.
The former Sharks flank had become an integral part of Northern Irish club Ulster over the last five years, but has decided to return to South Africa to experience home comforts once more.
“It all started during lockdown when I was back home for four months. My wife and I did a lot of thinking together about life, and we also reflected on where I am in my career,” Coetzee said when his move to the Bulls was announced in December.
“We decided to come back to Belfast with an open mind, but ultimately we miss home, the South African culture and way of life – and after five seasons, the longing for home has just caught up with us.”
On Thursday, Coetzee posted a picture on Twitter of himself with a brand-new double-cab bakkie in Pretoria, with the caption: “Great to be back and be part of @BlueBullsRugby. Not every day u land and this (is) waiting for u. Thank u.”
The 29-year-old’s departure from Ulster came earlier than expected due to a hamstring injury, which will see him continue his rehabilitation in Pretoria.
He will hope to get back on to the pitch soon in order to feature for the Bulls in the Rainbow Cup SA, and push for a spot in the Springbok squad ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour.
Coetzee also paid tribute to Ulster this week on Instagram: “Just want to let everyone know that myself and Chanelle have arrived safely in South Africa. But it will be a sin to not reflect back on the past years in Ireland with utmost gratitude to @officialulsterrugby and The Ulster fans.
“It’s a chapter in my life I will never, ever forget, and will always be thankful for the memories shared on and off the field.
“I’m really sorry about not ending the season on a high note with the boys, but unfortunately, the injury limited my time with Ulster rugby.
“Thank you for every message, positive and negative, from every fan and critic. It helped me through tough times, as well as through good times.
“I am sorry I couldn’t greet everyone personally, but hopefully through this post, will show my appreciation and passion for my time spent at Ulster.
“Once an Ulsterman, always an Ulsterman. For now, it’s goodbye, until I see you again.”
Coetzee’s arrival coincides with the departure of another Bulls loose forward, Tim Agaba, who has been signed by French second division (Pro D2) club US Carcassonne.
The 31-year-old Agaba signed a two-year contract after battling to get much game time during his Bulls stint.
Apart from Coetzee, Montpellier’s Jacques du Plessis will also join the Bulls from July 1, adding to the exceptional loose-forward depth that coach Jake White has at his disposal.