Ulster back-row Marcell Coetzee has been ruled out for the rest of the season after he had surgery on the knee injury he sustained against Zebre recently.
The surgery confirmed he had sustained a significant medical meniscal (cartilage) tear, which has been repaired.
Coetzee’s ACL, which was previously repaired in April 2016, remains intact and didn’t require any further surgical intervention.
The anticipated return to play is now estimated at four months, meaning the Coetzee will undergo a full pre-season programme with a view to being fully fit for the beginning of the 2017/18 season.
The 25-year-old South-African, who has been capped 28 times for the Springboks, made his long anticipated Ulster debut in the win over Edinburgh in February and had an immediate impact, registering an incredible 26 carries in a 59 minute appearance.
He also featured prominently in the subsequent wins over Glasgow and Treviso, before picking up the injury in the record ten-try win over Zebre.
Ulster’s director of rugby, Les Kiss, welcomed the update.
“It really is fantastic news,” he said.
“I think most people were fearing the worst, that Marcell had ruptured his cruciate ligament once again, so it’s great to hear that he will be back sooner than we initially expected.
“He has had a tremendous impact since he joined the club, not only on the pitch, but also on the training paddock with his huge work ethic and infectious positive attitude.
“It’s a great boost for the club, the supporters and most importantly Marcell himself, that we will see him back in an Ulster jersey at the start of next season.
“I have spoken to Marcell and he’s really pleased with the prognosis. He is extremely grateful for the care he received from the Ulster Rugby medical team and the staff at the Ulster Independent Clinic, plus for all the messages of support he has received from the Ulster fans.