ULSTER ARE CAREFULLY managing the workload of Marcell Coetzee as he works his way back from a knee injury which has kept the Springbok out of the last three Guinness Pro14 games.
The 26-year-old flanker started the season-opener against the Cheetahs but has missed the subsequent wins over Treviso, Scarlets and Dragons and has again been ruled out of this weekend’s clash with Zebre.
Coetzee has been plagued by knee problems over the last two seasons and fears are growing that this latest problem is worse than first feared, although Ulster have been quick to downplay any concerns.
The northern province initially hoped to have the 28-time capped South African international available for the round four clash with Dragons, but are wary of fast tracking his return before he’s 100% ready.
“Marcell has still got a slight problem with his knee and hopefully he’ll be back next week,” Ulster’s scrum coach Aaron Dundon said yesterday.
“It’s a tough one with Marcell and it’s week-by-week. I don’t think he’s far away and he trained last week and he got through it pretty well.”
It is hoped that Coetzee will be back in time for a key block of fixtures ahead as Ulster prepare for games against Connacht and Leinster in between their opening two Champions Cup fixtures against Wasps and La Rochelle.
Coetzee has played just five games for the province since his arrival ahead of the 2016/17 season, having been sidelined with two separate knee injuries for a total of 11 months.
Les Kiss will, however, have summer signing Jean Deysel back in his ranks for Saturday’s trip to Italy after the big ball-carrying back rower missed last week’s victory over the Dragons because of an eye problem.
Jared Payne won’t be involved against Zebre while captain Rory Best will be out for another five weeks with the hamstring injury he sustained in training.
Ulster have started the new season brightly having won four from four, including two bonus point wins over Cheetahs and Dragons.
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