DTH van der Merwe has vowed that Glasgow will take the field at Rodney Parade this afternoon with enhanced motivation for their Guinness Pro12 meeting with the Dragons.
Last term the Welsh province were the only team to complete a home and away league double over the Scotstoun side, with the pick of these two victories coming in a bruising 24-23 victory in the valleys that snapped Warriors’ new high watermark away sequence of seven victories in succession on-the-road.
A candid Van der Merwe, who is restored to the starting line-up on the left flank after a fine cameo off the bench at Cardiff last Sunday, believes these painful reverses can also be attributed to complacency in the Glasgow ranks, following a 60-3 romp at Rodney Parade the previous year that is the Scotstoun men’s record away success.
In fact, such is the 28-year-old’s reverence for the uncompromising opposition that Dragons vaunted blitz defence provides, that Glasgow record try-scorer was prepared to compare Kingsley Jones’ side with the Irish province Connacht, whose name has become synonymous with obdurate winning ugly rugby.
All of which the Canada wing says will serve to make sure his men are not left high-and-dry this time around.
“Last season I think they were hurting from our record victory over them at Rodney Parade the previous campaign and they were obviously fired up and they beat us home and away,” admitted Van der Merwe.
He continued: “Maybe we did take them a bit too lightly but in the past they have always been the team that we have struggled with.
“Dragons are a very physical team and until this season they have not had any superstars but they have always had a superb work ethic.
“Really they are the Connacht of Welsh Rugby and they just work so hard for each other, give you no time and get in your face from the first whistle.”
Van der Merwe admits that Dragon’s brutal blitz defence will put Glasgow’s ability to produce a performance of grace under pressure under extreme scrutiny.
“All week we have trained hard to face their blitz defence. The guys who are not playing have been running the blitz on us and there are different strategies for coping with it.
“If you are going wide you have to earn it and you need to make sure you put some quick work in to get through a tackle and create that opportunity,” he said.
Van der Merwe added: “Down there last season they put us under a lot of pressure and they forced us into mistakes and that won the game for them. We won nine out of our 11 games away and we lost to Dragons and that just shows they know how to put good teams under pressure.”
After missing Glasgow’s opening league game with a back strain, Van der Merwe came off the bench last week at Cardiff to make a coruscating charge down the Blues’ left flank before deftly off-loading for Niko Matawalu to touch down the third and ultimately decisive try.
It was a performance that paved the way for his return to this afternoon’s starting XV.
“It’s good to be back in the starting line-up. I had the little hiccup with the back strain and missed Leinster and then got back as a replacement against Cardiff but it’s great to be back starting,” admitted Van der Merwe.
He continued: “It was a little niggle, it was a long pre-season and I wasn’t quite right and there were other guys ahead of me, and these guys were playing really well.
“Competition for a place on the wing is intense. We have three guys playing international rugby and obviously Sean Maitland isn’t even back yet. Tommy Seymour has been playing unbelievable rugby, Lee Jones has done really well and Rory Hughes is in there and Sean Lamont scored a fine try last weekend.
“So yeah, I am delighted to be starting.”
Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend has made 11 changes in total, both positionally and personnel wise, and he admitted his toughest call had come at 15 where Stuart Hogg is given a run-out in preference to the previously outstanding Peter Murchie, who has been rested.
“Peter has played really well. He has played four games and was outstanding in the last two but Stuart is fit and although he came off the bench against Leinster, ahead of schedule as cover, he is now ready to be reintroduced at 15,” revealed Townsend.
At eight Josh Strauss continues to skipper Glasgow in his 50th appearance for Warriors while Niko Matawalu, in at nine in preference to Henry Pyrgos has also reached his half-century.
Townsend has also opted to go with a replacement split of six forwards and two backs on the bench such is the ferocity of the impending collision.
15 H Amos
14 T Pydie
13 B John
12 D Jones
11 A Brew
10 A O’Brien
9 R Rees
1 B Stankovich
2 T Rhys Thomas
3 L Fairbrother
4 C Hill
5 R Landman
6 L Evans
7 N Cudd
8 T Faletau
16 E Dee
17 H Gustafson
18 D Way
19 M Screech
20 A Powell
21 L Jones
22 A Hewitt
23 B Nightingale
15 S Hogg
14 T Seymour
13 A Dunbar
12 P Horne
11 DTH vd Merwe
10 D Weir
9 N Matawalu
1 G Reid
2 K Bryce
3 E Murray
4 T Swinson
5 L Nakarawa
6 R Harley
7 T Holmes
8 J Strauss (c)
16 F Brown
17 A Allan
18 de Klerk
19 J Eddie
20 C Fusaro
21 A Ashe
22 H Pyrgos
23 L Jones