He is among a group of players that are second on the Vodacom United Rugby Championship try-scoring list, he tops the championship’s offload stats and is fourth on the carries list, but for some strange reason the Vodacom Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee isn’t currently on the Springbok radar.
There are few that will discount the fact that his form since joining the Bulls from Ulster has been a massive part in why they are still contenders in this year’s URC campaign, but one has to wonder if Coetzee is going to be one of the unluckiest players ever in South African rugby if he continues to be ignored.
On Sunday Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber spent a fair chunk of time explaining the rationale to media behind the alignment camps and how difficult it is for any outside player to lift the Springboks in the squad right now.
And none more so than at loose forward.
The incumbents - Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, strongman Duane Vermeulen and former World Rugby Player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit would walk into any test team worldwide and the likelihood that they will be dropped failing a significant injury or drop in form is not something that anyone close to the Bok side would even consider at this moment.
It is understandable, and the old adage of playing a player out of his position applies to anyone wanting to get into the squad of the World’s No 1 side right now.
But while most of the debate has centred around the omission from the alignment camp of Evan Roos, the possible inclusion of Elrigh Louw and the battle between two of the best young talents in the country at the moment, Coetzee seems to have been forgotten.
Of course the competition for positions will be massive - especially when you include Leicester Tigers’ duo of Jasper Wiese and Marco van Staden, Sale Sharks’ Du Preez twins and others like Kwagga Smith, who scored a hat-trick for his club in Japan this past weekend.
And that’s not even including the outliers - such as Rynhard Elstadt - whose form at Toulouse has found favour with the Bok selectors in the past.
But Coetzee has the pedigree, has the experience and is in exceptional form right now for the Bulls.
His name was touted ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour and forgotten. And just as he has been one of the unluckiest players in the past when it comes to national call-ups, it seems he might be once again.
In 2015 he lost out to Kolisi in a World Cup squad selection while he was in superb form for the Sharks. In 2019 he played against Argentina but missed World Cup selection when picking up an injury before the World Cup.
Ulster supporters talk about him as if he is a colossus and it is easy to underestimate the effect he had on the Belfast club while he was there.
Now a similar trend is being played out at the Bulls. Coetzee is a larger-than-life figure who has scored eight tries in this year’s URC. He continues to impress, perform at a level that would get most into a test team but wasn’t even mentioned when the Bok coach talked about loose forwards.
It may be that Nienaber was focusing more on the Roos-Louw debate and wanted to defuse that, but the omission was glaring when he mentioned the others in the Bok realm.
So Coetzee has to wonder, other than perform week in and out, what he needs to do to catch the Bok selectors’ eye? They definitely know what they have in the Bulls captain.
They have said so before.
But whether Coetzee adds to his 30 Springbok caps in the next season waits to be seen.