Rhinos skipper looking for step up

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IT’S something only the bravest of men would shout in the streets of Jean Coetzer’s native Pretoria.
It would probably draw derision at it’s mildest and pose a threat to one’s person at it’s most extreme, but for Corrimal recruit, Coetzer, there is no doubt – rugby league is the greatest game of all.
“It’s a lot better than union, it’s faster quicker, tougher,” Coetzer says.
League writers Mitch Jennings and Tim Barrow talk NRL and Illawarra Coal LeagueLike most boys growing up in Pretoria, Coetzer was brought up in the 15-man game with no knowledge of rugby league.
“When I was young it was non-existent. I didn’t even know about it,” Coetzer said.
“I grew up playing union and started playing [league] in 2009, with my brother just for a bit of bonding with friends. I got straight through to provincial [championship] and straight to International and I’ve played ever since.”
The game is faced with many hurdles in his homeland, not the least of which is the the South African Sports Confederation’s stubborn refusal to recognise the game as separate from rugby union; the battle the league fought in other countries more than 100 years ago.
Despite that the competition continues to grow with the premier Rhino Cup featuring teams from Gauteng Province and another competition based around Cape Town.
“When I started I don’t think we were even on the map but it’s really coming up now,” Coetzer said.
“The Rhino Cup is our top comp and it’s based mainly Gauteng [province], so between Pretoria, Johannesburg and Mpumalanga. This year we started a comp in Cape Town so hopefully if the money gets good we can combine and make it a big [national] comp.”
Coetzer first played his first Test for South Africa in 2009 and captained the Rhinos in their World Cup qualifiers against Lebanon last year, a tournament that saw the climb as high as 25 in the world rankings.
“It was a very great experience, especially with all the young boys I had under me. It’s was a really big honour,” he said.
At 26, he felt the time was right to seek out a tougher challenge. He got a quick initiation in the Cougars last-start loss to Collegians and Saturday promises a massive step up against league leaders Dapto.
“This is the first time I’ve come abroad to play and I’ve definitely come here for a step up,” he said.
“I came straight off the plane and got straight into the two practice sessions and played [against Collegians]. It’s a lot quicker than I’m used to but now, after three weeks, the body’s more used to it so we’ll see how I go this weekend against Dapto.”
Elsewhere in the Illawarra Coal League, Wests host Thirroul at Parrish Park while Berkeley will travel to Helensburgh to take on the Tigers at Rex Jackson Oval.