EDINBURGH head coach Richard Cockerill has been elected the Guinness PRO14 coach of the season, while winger Duhan van der Merwe has been elected player of the season, in a vote by their peers.
This comes hot on the heels of six Edinburgh players being selected in the PRO14’s Dream Team of the season, highlighting the considerable contribution the capital outfit has made to the shortened campaign, although Cockerill was quick to recognise that last weekend’s defeat to Ulster means that the only prize that really matters – the league title – has eluded them.
“I’m a little bit surprised, but I’m happy that it gives everybody recognition at Edinburgh Rugby,” he said. “We’ve worked hard in the last three years to build what we’re doing and while it’s always nice to be recognised for an individual award, it’s very much a team effort across the club from the coaching staff, medical team, strength and conditioning guys, that have all worked really hard to do what we’re doing.
“We were obviously hugely disappointed not to reach this year’s Guinness PRO14 Final, but we’re determined as ever to bounce back and drive the club forward in 2020-21.”
Powerhouse winger Van der Merwe’s award was voted for by the captains and vice-captains at each team in the competition. The 25-year-old has impressed all season topping out the Opta stats charts for defenders beaten (76), metres made (906) and clean breaks (31) while scoring seven tries and setting up two.
He averaged 5.6 defenders beaten per game, breaking his own PRO14 record of 5.3 that he set in 2017-18. Van der Merwe also ensures the award stays in the Scottish capital with team-mate Bill Mata earning the accolade last season.
“I feel hugely privileged to win this award,” said the South African born 25-year-old, who now qualifies to play for Scotland through the three-year residency rule. “Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I could achieve something this big and it’s a brilliant feeling knowing that it was voted by the guys I face in the Guinness PRO14 week-in, week-out.
“Getting an award like this is massive for me and hopefully highlights that the hard work I’ve put in throughout my career is starting to pay off. I genuinely couldn’t have won this without the help of everyone at Edinburgh Rugby and I can’t wait to push the club further next season.”
Edinburgh’s 2019-20 season is not over yet. They travel to France a week on Saturday to take on Bordeaux-Begles in the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals.