Robbie Packs his bags for Texas
A fourth South African hooker is busy making his way to the USA to take part in their Major League Rugby.
Robbie Coetzee has signed with Austin’s Gilgronis Club and will be playing his rugby out of the leafy suburbs and rolling hills of the Texas music town for the next 5 years. (Austin is just 3 Hrs drive from Dallas)
He’ll soon be coming up against other South Africans in the shape of former Lions team mate Pieter Jansen who is now playing hooker for New England Free Jacks!
In addition to this Dean Muir a former Western Province player is now plying his trade for the San Diego Legion while Stephan Coetzee, ex-Southern Kings hooker has now taken up station at the Seattle Seawolves. (I wonder if he knows how much it rains up there?)
The now 31 year old Coetzee played his last game for the Lions in May 2019 against the Crusaders in New Zealand.
The former student from Hoerskool Eldoraigne joined the Lions directly from school in 2013 and has been there ever since, trotting out for more than 100 games for them in Super Rugby, Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup.
In 2014 he was selected for the Bok squad to tour Europe at the end of the year but sadly had to pull out of it due to a neck injury
“I chose Austin Gilgronis in Texas because I found it a wonderful place. It’s very family oriented and the weather is similar to SA’s”. Austin has blazing hot summers with rather mild winters only getting perhaps a foot or two of snow in Dec/January. The surrounding areas, Austins “Hill Country” is all gently rolling hills and leafy pastoral fields which is a far cry from the rest of Texas which is as flat as a billiard table.
“The other big drawcard for me was that there are number of South Africans already living there” Coetzee told us.
Texas is the most popular state when it comes to South Africans with well over 100, 000 of us having moved there over the years. It has a number of large cities – with Houston and Dallas being the biggest both have approximately 7 million people making them the 4th and 6th largest metroplexes in the United States
Coetzee’s interest in North American rugby got started when he watched the Beast Mtawarira’s move to the USA after the 2019 Rugby World Cup. He had also followed the multi-talented Joe Pietersen’s move there as well. Pietersen currently plays for the San Diego Legion.
“My aim is still to give my best on the field, we’re a bunch of new guys that have come together at Austin Gilgronis”
“My hope is that we can emulate my time at the Lions and play in some finals, you just don’t know where you’re going to end a couple a couple of years down the line”
Although he hasn’t been able to play rugby since May 2019 it’s been a bit of a blessing in disguise as it’s given his body time to heal.
“My focus in the down time was to get my body right again. Our baby was born end of May and it was wonderful to be home with him for his first year. My Wife. Camilla and my son, Connor helped me stay focused and positive”.
The former Cheetahs fitness coach, Niel Du Plessis, worked with Coetzee at the Sports Science Lab in Pretoria to improve on his conditioning and confidence. “My body feels as good as it did just before the 2014 Bok tour” Coetzee told us.
The Coetzee family is planning to still move and set up house this year so that Robbie can have time to acclimatize and be used to Austin by the time he has to report for practice in February 2021.
The San Diego Legion in the meantime has confirmed they’ve contracted former Bulls and Bok winger Bjorn Basson as well as 7’s superstar Cecil Afrika.