Duhan van der Merwe expects tough fight for place in Edinburgh team

"The depth in our back three is frightening," winger says as he hopes for second debut on Saturday

Duhan Van der Merwe has returned from Worcester to a much-changed Edinburgh set-up. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

WHEN teams make a big-money signing on a long-term deal, it is reasonable to expect that the recruit in question will be a regular starter with his new employees. But Duhan van der Merwe is making no such presumption as his second spell with Edinburgh gets under way.

The 27-year-old winger believes he is basically the same player now as he was during his first stint with the capital club, which lasted from 2017, when he joined from Montpellier, to last summer, when he left for Worcester. He knows, however, that his time away in England coincided with some fairly significant changes at the capital club – changes which, he believes, can only be of benefit to his game.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the identity of the head coach – with Mike Blair having succeeded Richard Cockerill in the post during the 2021 close season – and the style of rugby he likes to play. Certainly, Van der Merwe is convinced that the far more expansive style adopted by Blair is ideally suited to his game. But there have been some significant alterations to the squad too – with alterations to the back three in particular that mean the new arrival believes he is by no means guaranteed a place in the starting line-up.

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Since Van der Merwe brought his four-year stint with Edinburgh to an end in the middle of 2021, Emiliano Boffelli, Henry Immelman and Wes Goosen have all been added to the playing roster. Injury has so far prevented Goosen from making his debut, but the other two have made significant contributions to the team’s upturn in fortunes. Factor in Damien Hoyland and Darcy Graham, two back-three players who have played alongside Van der Merwe before, and the competition for places in jerseys 11, 14 and 15 becomes all the hotter.

“I like to think I’m the same player,” Van der Merwe said yesterday after training with his new team-mates, having signed for Edinburgh last week after Worcester went into liquidation. “I wanted to test myself going to a new club, but I’m buzzing to be back.

The depth in our back three is frightening. The depth we have is a joke.

“The competition is just going to make me a better player. If you start on a Saturday and have a seven-out-of-ten game you will be on the bench next weekend. 

“That’s what I love about the competition we have going on in the squad. It’s exciting times.

“Boffelli is really good – we saw how good he was in the summer [when playing for Argentina against Scotland] and how good he is under the high ball. Darcy has brilliant feet and he is playing the best I’ve ever seen him play. 

“And my mate Henry Immelman – I played with him at Montpellier – he’s a bit of a freak. He loves running over people. 

“I could speak about Damo [Hoyland], so many other guys. It’s good to have that competition in the squad.” 

Van der Merwe retreated into a diplomatic silence and a coy smile when asked if he would have thought twice about returning to Edinburgh had Cockerill still been at the helm. But he did insist that Blair’s being in charge made his decision to come back all the easier.

“I’ve been watching Edinburgh for a long time now, and play under Mike Blair is really exciting,” he continued. “As a winger I’m looking to get more ball, and that really excites me as I love attacking. The way they have been playing is just great.

“I really enjoyed my time at Worcester, but when the opportunity came to come back to Edinburgh it was a no-brainer. I didn’t even want to look elsewhere. 

“When I knew Edinburgh were interested I said to my agent ‘That’s where I want to go’. Mike’s brought me in and I’m very grateful for that.

“I was always aware this might happen, so there were small chats with Edinburgh but nothing happened until we [Worcester] got liquidated. Once that happened things started going smoothly. 

“The last thing I’m going to do is bad-mouth Worcester, because I’ve made friends for life and I absolutely love the place. You come back from the summer off and you start getting the feeling of stuff going on which is obviously never nice, but sometimes you have to put that behind you and get on with the job. 

“Unfortunately the outcome was not a good one, and I feel for the boys. It’s a bad time for them and finding a club is never easy, and I’m  thinking of the staff and the players down there.”

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About Stuart Bathgate 1438 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

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