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Back You are here: Home Sports Rugby Kwa Zulu Natal Rugby: Profile on Jaco Coetzee- Leading The Green Machine
Thursday, 17 July 2014 00:00

Rugby: Profile on Jaco Coetzee- Leading The Green Machine

 There are understated mutterings on the schoolboy rugby scene that Glenwood High School has unearthed a gem in their decorated rugby program. He is said to possess the versatility of Sharks and Springbok breakout star, Marcel Coetzee; that rare and invaluable ability to comfortably shift between all three positions in the back row and could quite easily become the perfect hybrid of all three.

Jaco Coetzee playing for KZN at Craven Week 2013

A 1.87m lineout option with the bulldozing carrying ability of a seven, the intelligent running lines of an eight and the breakdown bullying of a six.

It is not unheard of for South African schoolboys to tip the scales at over 100kg’s, in fact its commonplace. The reason that Jaco Coetzee has been penciled down as a name to remember, is that he brings so much more than confrontational bulk. His balance, speed and comfort in collision has led to a call-up to the SA u18 Sevens Training Squad for the upcoming African Youth Games in Gaborone, Botswana. And whilst the final squad is yet to be determined, his mere inclusion is indicative of the fact that Jaco is so much more than a carnage-seeking basher.

Fortunately for Coetzee, his school of choice shares in his passion for the game and has equipped the Gelofte Primere Skool alumini with all the tools to make a full go of it in the professional ranks. Former Coach Sean Erasmus has taken up the Director of Rugby role at Paarl Boys High and whilst he has left an impression on all the boys and huge shoes to fill for his successor; the combination of Mike Vowles, Rudi Dames and new Director of Rugby, Shawn van Rensburg have all ensured that the Glenwood ethos remain intact.           

“I remember arriving at Glenwood as an under twelve player for a KZN capping ceremony and I immediately saw that sign saying ‘Home of the Green Machine’. My mother wanted me to go to a school closer to home, but at that moment, I had this feeling inside me; I knew I had to come to this school.”

Despite the understandable parental wish to have their son nearby, Jaco headed for the Glenwood boarding establishment as a Grade Eight and has immersed himself into every facet of the institution. Four years of pride and passion has now become duty, following his appointment as Deputy Head Prefect; his humility coming to the fore when we broach the subject of numerous provinces taking an interest in his post-matric plans. He sheepishly acknowledges that the Bulls, Cheetahs and Sharks have made enquiries into his rugby future, but he leaves these off the field distractions to his father, as priority one for 2014 is to accumulate the best matric results possible and embark on a parallel academic journey.

“I haven’t made any decision about next year because so much can happen before then and I need to look at both rugby and academic reasons before I make my choice. I understand that game time is important and I also want to be able to study a law degree; something to fall back on if rugby doesn’t work out. My plan is to have a smaller course load in the beginning and see how it goes from there”.

With this in mind, it would be amiss to overlook the fact that the 2014 school rugby season is in its infancy and an opportunity awaits to build on the successes of 2013. It was here that Coetzee not only scored a unique hat trick of tries against traditional rivals, DHS; but Glenwood also managed to defy the odds and defeat Maritzburg College 44-40 on their hallowed Goldstones on College’s own Reunion Day; a match that has been described by many as one of the best school clashes in living memory.

An ambitious school such as Glenwood has lifted its domestic KZN standard by pitting itself against the best the country has to offer and it comes as little surprise that Grey College stands out as a physical and cardiovascular challenge bar none. The approach is simple: You can’t run onto the field fearing their name or else the game is over already. There must only be respect.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, this unique talent does not consciously model his game on any one seasoned professional, but he does mention a glowing admiration for the work ethic of Francois Hougaard and tenacity of Bulls Flank, Arno Botha. “I’ve heard that Hougaard tells his trainers to try and break him physically and that is exactly what I want to do; to push my limits and test my breaking point”.

Despite Botha’s unfortunate run of serious injuries, he has managed to represent the Springboks at a relatively young age and this is a goal which Jaco has set himself to emulate. His five year plan includes becoming a Super Rugby regular and contesting for the Springbok jersey; failing which he would use his considerable talents to play overseas and see the world.

The conversion rate from schoolboy star to professional athlete is so rare that the sheer mathematical unlikelihood often proves too much for the weak of mind. Superstars at high school level soon realize that there are no defensive frailties in the u19 Currie Cup. There are no weak defenders, gaps are non-existent and those who used to rely on physical dominance are stunned by the fact that they are no longer able to run over an opponent. The selfsame cycle is perpetuated at u21 and Vodacom Cup level until a small fraction of the initial group remain.   

But then there are the exceptional few; those who possess the delicate balance between mental fortitude, physical capability and a self-deprecating recognition that every performance needs to be bettered the following week; every line break needs to be telling and every contribution, exceptional.  

And whilst nothing is promised in this most unforgiving of sporting endeavors, there is every indication that the name Jaco Coetzee is not to be easily forgotten.   

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