EDINBURGH winger Duhan van der Merwe doesn’t mess about when he gets ball in hand on the rugby field, and the South African-born, now Scottish-qualified, winger is equally direct in conversation.
The 25-year-old – who leads the this season’s PRO14 charts in ‘clean breaks’ with 29 (second placed Rhyno Smith of the Cheetahs has only 18), in defenders beaten with 67 (Smith has 49) and in metres gained with 870 (Smith has 742) – did not mince his words when asked for his take on Friday night’s inter-city clash against Glasgow Warriors, in which his team suffered their first home defeat of the season.
“It was stop-start-stop-start – it was one of those games where we had so many errors and stuff, it was just, honestly, a really shit game,” he stated.
Neither does van der Merwe pussyfoot when asked about his international aspirations. It may be a sensitive subject given that he has only just qualified to wear the thistle through the contentious three year-residency regulation – but, as far as the 25-year-old is concerned, that is not his problem: the rules are the rules and he is going to make the most of the opportunity they afford them.
“Obviously, since I have become Scottish qualified [during the summer], things have changed for me personally because now I know I need to perform every single game, not just to be in the Edinburgh starting XV but to get a chance to play for Scotland,” he said.
“That’s definitely in the back of my head because I know I am competing against Blair [Kinghorn], Darcy [Graham], the Glasgow wingers, guys who have played before for Scotland, so I know there is a lot of competition there, so I just want to be performing at my best and hopefully get a shot.”
It should be noted that van der Merwe is not getting ahead of himself. He is well aware that a call-up during Scotland’s Autumn Test schedule is entirely dependent on his form for Edinburgh, which helps explain why he agreed with his club head coach, Richard Cockerill, that he shouldn’t be rested on Friday night in preparation for next weekend’s PRO14 play-off clash against Ulster, despite the Glasgow match being a dead-rubber as far as league placings was concerned.
“I felt I needed a run,” he explained. “I was blowing a bit in the first game [back after lockdown] and I just need to get minutes under my belt. You are always a bit rusty your first few games back, so I just want to get through that and back into form.
“I do want to play for Scotland and I do want to give it a crack, but for now I am just really focussed on performing for Edinburgh in the semi-finals and hopefully getting some silverware for the club – that would be amazing.
“I’m just glad to be back playing, to be honest. At one point I thought they were just going to scrap the whole season and we were in such a good spot. I was in lockdown thinking: ‘Surely give us a shot – we’ve not been a position like this in however long Edinburgh has been a club’. It is obviously exciting that we now have this opportunity. It is massive for the club and it is massive for the boys.
“There is a big buzz. The club has not been in the situation we are in now so we’ve got one shot or then maybe wait another year. So, it has to be now. We have to go out next week and beat Ulster.
“There’s boys who got opportunities [on Friday], but that game is not going to determine what happens next week,” he added. “We’ll come in fresh on Monday ready to get stuck in against Ulster. What’s the point in reviewing this game? We’ve made 10 changes [from Edinburgh’s regular starting XV].”