The strong 28-year-old looseforward missed out on Rugby World Cup selection in 2015 after injuring his knee against Argentina in Durban that year, and has since battled a number of other serious injuries which have seriously curtailed his career.
On Wednesday, Coetzee admitted that he was contemplating packing away his boots in 2018.
“If you’d asked me a year ago whether I’d be sitting here in front of the (South African) media, I would have said ‘no way’,” he admitted.
“A year ago, I was thinking about retirement with all the niggles that I’ve had, but being back in the Bok environment, with your friends and soaking up the environment is really awesome.
“For me, personally, it is about enjoyment and learning. The professionalism, coaches and players and how they’ve grown – you can’t help but feed off that.”
Coetzee told the media he’s had a “phenomenal eight weeks” with the Springboks since making his return to the national squad for the first time in four years.
“You can see the culture that’s been created and the team reaping the benefit from it,” said Coetzee, who previously played for the Cell C Sharks before heading to Ulster in Ireland after the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
“The environment is unbelievable and the guys all get along, whether you playing abroad or locally – we all share the same goal and dream for this team.”
Coetzee, who made his Springbok debut in 2012, starts at No 8 in Saturday’s Farewell Test at Loftus Versfeld against Argentina and said the current Bok squad boasts incredible depth. Tickets are available from www.ticketpro.co.za and the Loftus Versfeld ticket office.
Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Francois Louw, all of whom featured against New Zealand and Argentina in recent weeks, are not in the mix this week, while Kwagga Smith is on the bench alongside Marco van Staden.
Coetzee will run out next to Rynhardt Elstadt and Siya Kolisi, who is earmarked for a cameo role after recently recovering from injury.
“I would say one of the strengths of this team is the depth,” said Coetzee.
“The guys who are playing this weekend form a very competitive team, with great players all round and, you can sense that everyone is looking forward to get out there on the park.”
The Test in Pretoria will be the last time local crowds would be able to see the Springboks in action before the announcement of the RWC squad on 26 August.
“Firstly, I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be involved again with the team, at the end of the day it is out of your hands (to be picked for the RWC squad) and all you can do is to produce and show what you can do,” said Coetzee.
“At the end of the day there is a bigger picture and you just want to represent your country as best as you can.”
Coetzee had to battle several knee injuries but produced some consistently good performances for Ulster since regaining his fitness.
“I think the rehabilitation stages were vital, the process with the ACL was a lot of hard work and required patience. And sitting here with the Springboks, you realise all of that was for this moment, getting up every time and chasing that dream every single day,” said Coetzee.
“And I must say may faith also played a huge role in this, along with the amazing support of my family and friends, who helped me to get back on the horse again and keep on fighting.”
Coetzee said he has matured a lot as player since making the move to Ireland: “Experience wise you pick up a lot of that while playing abroad, and obviously those first two seasons didn’t go as well as planned.
“But I think I have a lot more maturity and know how to handle stuff, and I’ve grown mentally as well. I played a lot at No 8 for Ulster so that also helped me in that aspect of my game.
“Being back in the country makes you realise again the amount of amazing talent we have. If you look at schools level, the professional level and then the Springboks itself.
“With the Boks you realise that we are sitting with a bunch of guys who can go to the World Cup and do really well. They will do their best and represent the country to the best of their ability. I think South African rugby is in a very good spot at the moment.”
He will play in his 30th Test for the Springboks on Saturday and his first at No 8. Saturday’s Test start at 17h05 and will be televised live on SuperSport1.