Six Nations: tunnel vision helped Duhan van der Merwe see the light

Hat-trick hero says he is delighted to give back to the fans after South Africa switch

Henry Slade of England attempts to tackle Scotland's Duhan van der Merwe. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Henry Slade of England attempts to tackle Scotland's Duhan van der Merwe. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

DUHAN VAN DER MERWE can’t quite explain why he stuck so tightly to the touchline when running in his sensational 60-yard try – the second of three – for Scotland against England on Saturday. It was a little bit too close to comfort for the spectator, but the big winger says that he had tunnel vision at that point so it never occurred to him to deviate from the most direct route to the line by straying in field.

“It is is hard to explain – I always say to the players: ‘Just give me the ball and I’ll sprint’ –  so it is just doing my thing and not thinking much about it,” he shrugged.

Whatever the thought process was (or wasn’t), van der Merwe’s contribution to a famous Calcutta Cup victory on Saturday will be remembered as one of the great performances in the history of international rugby’s oldest rivalry, and the Scotland winger says he is just glad to pay back the nation which gave him the chance to achieve his potential after he decided that his sporting future lay outside his native South Africa.


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“When I came over in 2017, there was never the thought of playing for Scotland because the only thing I could think about was playing for Edinburgh – I mean, I’d only played two professional games at that point, ” explained the 28-year-old, who has now scored 26 tries in 37 international matches since qualifying to wear the dark blue on residency grounds in the autumn of 2020.

“I had to stay for three years before I’d become eligible for Scotland but it was never guaranteed that I’d come over and automatically just end up playing for Scotland.

“It doesn’t work like that. I had to perform for my club and then there’s a lot of hard work and dedication that goes into that.

“But I love playing for Scotland and I’m just so happy at how everything has turned out.

“Am I proud? Oh, 100 percent,” he added. “When I come in on the bus on game days, I look at all our fans and I think: ‘How can I give back to Scotland because this country has given me so much?’

“I guess with my performances, that is giving back to our fans.

“Obviously, being so far from South Africa, my wife is my main support here, but a couple of my Scottish mates came to the game as well. I have lived here for eight years so most of my mates here are Scottish, so that’s very special.”

 

 

Asked how he feels Saturday’s heroics compare to his famous two try performance in last year’s win over England at Twickenham, he replied: “Ah, tough question. Look at the end of the day, my job as a winger is to finish off opportunities.

“And scoring two last year and scoring three on Saturday, they’re both bloody special and it’s a day I’ll always remember.

“In terms of beating Stuart Hogg record [of 27 Scotland tries], when the Six Nations started, that was something I was targeting,” he added.

“I knew I had to get seven in five games and hopefully I’m on track. There’s two games left and I think I need two more [to get the record outright]. Hopefully I can achieve that. It would obviously be very special for me and my family.”


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About David Barnes 3891 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

7 Comments

  1. I was just thinking back to another outstanding winger performance at Murrayfield. In 2001 Lomu playing for the Barbarians single handily destroyed Scotland on the left wing. I never thought I’d see a winger performance that good at Murrayfield again but Saturday was pretty close.

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  2. I came to Scotland as a student, about the same age as Duhan, but from the US. I never played for Scotland, but I know what he means when he talks about what it means to him because I feel the same.

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  3. Great photo. Slade was so close to making the tap. Must admit I was screaming “posts” during the run in and had my heart in my mouth because he was so close to stepping in to touch. I should have more faith! Glad he’s in our team.

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  4. If you don’t tackle him early, he gone. Loved the sight of that wee linesman running as fast as he could behind him to trey and keep up with play!

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