NO matter how important the 1872 Cup may be to the participants, it would be fair to say that other topics dominate the conversation on the streets of Pretoria and Montpellier. So when Duhan van der Merwe arrived from France to join Edinburgh last summer, he was initially nonplussed by the importance his new team-mates placed on the fixture.
When it came to actually playing against Glasgow, however, he did not take long to understand what all the fuss was about. In fact, six minutes were all it took.
At that point, Simon Berghan was sent off for stamping on Fraser Brown, and the match became a severe test of Edinburgh’s physical and mental powers. It was a test they passed with flying colours, winning the match 18-17.
“It was quite nice,” the former Blue Bulls and Montpellier winger said earlier this week when asked to recall his impression of playing in the fixture for the first time last December. “The boys were chatting about the rivalry and saying ‘Wait till the Glasgow game, wait till the Glasgow game’. What is that all about?
“In the build-up to the Glasgow game that week I saw our boys getting hyped up for this game. In the game you could see the boys wanting to go at each other. There are only two teams and you want to prove yourself. It’s him or you for the Scotland jersey. The boys really get up for it and I like it.
“They were top of their log and on paper some people would have said they looked the better side. It was a massive confidence booster for us and [after Glasgow] getting the win at Scotstoun it came down to the win here at Murrayfield and we managed to beat them. As a player I was so excited at that win as I knew what it meant for the boys.
“Beating Glasgow at home with 14 men for almost the whole game after getting a red card so early in the game shows the character that we as a team have got. We will go into this weekend and enjoy it and play for each other.”
Glasgow on form
While Edinburgh won both that game last December and the three-match series to take the cup, Glasgow are still widely viewed as the stronger of the two squads – one reason why the home side’s head coach Richard Cockerill reckons his team are underdogs for the game on Saturday at BT Murrayfield. Be that as it may, Van der Merwe is confident that, even if the odds do still favour Glasgow, the pendulum is steadily swinging back in Edinburgh’s favour.
“Definitely. We have a very strong team. They have their strengths and we as Edinburgh have our strengths too. You could say they have more depth but we are being well managed so it will be a massive battle this weekend.”
Van der Merwe’s try against Newcastle in the Champions Cup last weekend was a typical combination of power and pace, but while he was pleased enough with a touchdown that clinched the win for his team, he reckons he should be scoring more. Defences are more wary of his power now than they were during his debut season, and he reckons he needs to work harder – and perhaps in different areas of the pitch – if he is going to increase his strike rate.
“Last season when I came I had not played much pro rugby – I had four caps with Montpellier and that was about that. Once people start performing you obviously take notice of them. That can be a factor, but I still have to work on how to beat my wing, so it’s all on me as well.
“I also have to find other ways to score tries as people will probably say he is a strong guy and maybe put two guys on him, whatever. I need to find ways to get my hands on the ball and then do what I can do.
“I am looking to get the ball early enough in my hands so I can work with it in space or one on one with some guy. If you think of guys like Darcy [Graham] and Blair [Kinghorn] and Dougie [Fife] – if you give them one on one they are potent. So we have been working hard to get us wingers and Blair the ball early in their hands.”