Old school coach pays tribute to powerhouse winger Duhan van der Merwe ahead of Scotland debut…
Scotland winger Duhan van der Merwe has said this week he will be “very proud” to represent the country on Friday evening against Georgia – and there will be many people miles away in South Africa proud too.
The powerhouse speedster grew up in South Africa, but qualifies for Scotland via residency rules as he has lived in Edinburgh and played for the city’s pro side for over three years now.
In that time he has scored many tries for Richard Cockerill’s side in the Guinness PRO14 and in European competitions and it was always the case that he would get a chance on the international stage when he became eligible.
He can do things on a pitch that others cannot and he could be the point of difference that head coach Gregor Townsend has been looking for in attack.
If he does well in this friendly, behind closed doors Test at BT Murrayfield then he will certainly be in the mix to play Wales away in the Six Nations on October 31.
When you see the size and strength of the 25-year-old now you imagine that he was always a star in his school rugby teams, but apparently he was a “late developer”.
“Duhan was a late developer, when he was under-14 he played for the side,” Outeniqua High School head of sport Peter Cloete said from George in the Western Cape of South Africa.
“At the end of his under-15 year he told me that he was now very motivated and that rugby was now his first priority.
“He started working exceptionally hard and when he was under-16 he was chosen for the school’s under-16 A team as well as the South Western Districts under-16 A team.
“In his under-17 year he made the school’s first team as well as the provincial uunder-18 Craven week team. In his final year at school in 2013 he was a star in the school’s first team as well as in the provincial Craven week team.
“He scored the most tries for the school in that year and was also chosen for the South Africa under-18 national team who played against England, France and Wales. He worked very hard for this and deserved that honour.”
“From the age of 16 he started to grow tremendously”
So was the man who has also played for South Africa under-20 and Montpellier amongst others in his career to date always much bigger than others on the pitch?
“From the age of 16 he started to grow tremendously,” Peter continued.
“In his under-17 and especially in his under-18 year he was a beast who scored a lot of magnificent tries!
“Duhan scored the most tries in a season for the school in 2013 when he was with the under-18 while when we played against Paarl Gimnasium in 2012 in the Western Province Championship competition he scored an 80 metre winning try against them!
“He also did very well in athletics, he was the school’s under-18 100m and 200m champion in 2013.
“We knew he would make it big one day”
When Duhan was chosen for the South Africa under-18 side seven years ago Peter and his colleagues thought it was the start of a great journey – “we knew he would make it big one day”.
“He was troubled by a few injuries after school, but since he has gone to to Edinburgh, he became the Duhan we once knew and I’ve watched every game he has played for Edinburgh on the TV,” Peter explained.
“I then realised that he would probably play for Scotland someday. It’s great for a coach to see a player develop into something special.
“We are super proud of Duhan, He deserves this amazing honour to play for Scotland and South Africans love the Scottish team.
“He is the school’s sixth international player. His brother Armand is a Springbok while Duhan was in the same first team as Warrick Gelant, who is currently playing for the Springboks.
“They played together from 2009 to 2013 for Outeniqua High School and I coached both of them for those years, I’m really proud of them.
“I can’t wait for that moment when Duhan sings Flower of Scotland.”
— Duhan van der Merwe (@duhanvdmerwe) October 21, 2020
Scotland squad: Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, James Lang, Duhan van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, Ali Price (VC); Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown (C), Zander Fagerson, Ben Toolis, Scott Cummings, Jamie Ritchie (VC), Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson. Subs: Stuart McInally, Oli Kebble, Simon Berghan, Rob Harley, Nick Haining, Cornell du Preez, George Horne, Finn Russell.
Scotland v Georgia takes place at BT Murrayfield on Friday (7.30pm) and is live on ITV4
Thanks to Outeniqua High School and David Gibson/FOTOSPORT for the images
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