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12 October 2020, Shona Sullivan

Ulster put in a self-assured performance in their win against Ospreys on Saturday evening at Liberty Stadium, and Player of the Match, Marcell Coetzee was delighted to make it two from two in the Guinness PRO14.

“There’s a good spirit in the team room at the moment,” he said. “It’s never easy playing away from home, but we managed to get the win and it was particularly pleasing in the way we won it. We’re very proud of ourselves and we’ll celebrate the win.”

It was important for Ulster to back up their victory against Benetton the previous week, particularly away from home against a team who won well against Edinburgh in Round 1.

“That is a culture that we want to change at Ulster. In the past it really didn’t go too well when we were on the road and were kind of out of our comfort zone. We have said if we want to be a consistent team and get a home play-off spot, we have to be consistent on the road and the whole mind set has changed around that.

“We had a few factors in the week that could have played a role in our preparation but it is a credit to the character of the guys just bouncing back from that. Everyone was buzzing and ready to go; that is pleasing for players and the management.”

Head Coach, Dan McFarland has provided opportunities for young players to prove themselves since the start of the 2020-21 season, and those players have integrated really well into the match-day squads, which Coetzee has relished.

“It is great, especially with the back line we have at the moment full of youngsters and you can just see the confidence growing every week. It’s is so nice when you see Stewart [Moore] breaking lines and Rob Lyttle doing his thing. We forget how young Jacob is though he feels like an old man in the team!

“As forwards we take it on ourselves to give them a good platform because we know when we can do our set pieces to our ability, they can do their magic. That’s rugby; you make the guy next to you look good by just doing your job.”

It isn’t just in the back line where young prospects are being given game time. Ireland U20s captain, David McCann made his debut off the bench against Benetton and Marcus Rea was handed his first start against the Ospreys.

“They are going well,” says Coetzee. “Even their attitude in training and the two games they have played, I thought Dave was unbelievable last week and he just showed he is one for the future, definitely. Marcus has a relentless work rate, even when he played against Leinster, he was phenomenal. It’s great that those guys are being rewarded with some game time because they really give their all for the team. It’s nice to see them flourish.”

Coetzee’s outstanding performances must surely have caught the eye of Rassie Erasmus and the South African coaching team ahead of the Rugby Championship, and while the number eight would be delighted to be selected, he remains firmly focused on his role at Ulster.

“The Government has to make a call on whether South Africa are going to participate in the Rugby Championship. I hope for the green light; it would be phenomenal and to be picked would be unbelievable, but you never know until you get that phone call or media press release. I think you just have to be consistent with your performances for your club and then you can just build it from there.

“I’m very passionate about playing for my country. It is a long-term goal you always chase, but before you get there, you have to give your all for your club.”