Duhan van der Merwe sure Edinburgh can handle must-win Glasgow derby

In the opening game of the 1872 Cup series at Murrayfield in the middle of December, Edinburgh enjoyed just 42 per cent of the possession on the day and 38 per cent of territory but still won at a canter thanks to a brace of tries from Duhan van der Merwe – the giant winger with a penchant for the physical and a nose for the whitewash.

Edinburgh winger Duhan van der Merwe. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS/SRU
Edinburgh winger Duhan van der Merwe. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS/SRU

“We wanted to put a lot of pressure on their defence,” he said. “They’ve got a great backline but if you put some pressure on them then sometimes they are going to force it. I was lucky enough to be in that space where I got the interception and lucky enough to run to the line. I’m 
happy about that.

“Edinburgh always does well against Glasgow for some reason. For some reason the boys always pitch up and manage to get the win. I don’t think they like the way we play. They play a faster brand of rugby and we obviously try to slow it down and play our style of rugby. I don’t think they like that.”

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In the final 1872 Cup game of the season at Scotstoun on Saturday evening, Glasgow would rather play their own pacy brand of rugby. They prefer the unstructured struff and tend to attack space rather than bodies, which is why they are so dangerous from turnovers. Edinburgh’s go-slow tactics may not win them many new fans but they have proved mightily effective against Glasgow in recent years. The Edinburgh players prefer to spend as long as possible in set piece play, their speciality, although the signs suggest they may not have everything their way on Saturday.

And that could spell trouble as they are a point behind third-placed Benetton, who face struggling Zebre in an earlier kick-off.

Edinburgh could be left hoping a bonus-point win over the Warriors at Scotstoun will be enough for a play-off berth.

Edinburgh’s regular front fivem of Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis will be in situ but Glasgow will have Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson back on front-row duty after missing the middle of the season. Scott Cummings has forced his way into the second row with Jonny Gray.

Glasgow’s set scrum looks a different prospect to the one that was bullied in the opening two derby games. Take away Edinburgh’s scrum dominance and it will be interesting to see what else they have left. Threats out wide for sure, in Darcy Graham and van der Merwe. But Edinburgh, rather than Glasgow, may find themselves chasing the game.

Van der Merwe added: “We’ve got a lot of fight in our squad. We have come back in previous games when we were down. We were down at Scarlets but we came back when it was a must-win for us. This weekend is also a must-win. We’ve got the skills. We’ve got a good attacking system so I would back the boys, even if we are down.”

The chances are that Edinburgh will need to match whatever haul of points the Scarlets manage against the Dragons, most likely a full house of five.

So, Edinburgh will need to score four tries in one match against Glasgow when they managed just three in both December derbies.

“We are obviously aware of the bonus point,” added van der Merwe, “but we still need to be patient. We still need to stick to our system and the way we play. We’re not going to go out on Saturday and do something we haven’t done. Our system has been working for us. We know we need to get five points, we will just focus on three points, five points and see where we get.

“We just need to forget about it (the bonus point) and stick to the system.”

Meanwhile, Glasgow winger Lee Jones, pictured, has agreed a new two-year deal after committing himself to Dave Rennie’s side. The 30-year-old, who has earned 10 caps for Scotland since his debut in 2012, will remain at Scotstoun until at least June 2021.

Jones said: “I’m delighted to be staying at Scotstoun, the brand of rugby the coaches have us playing and the atmosphere day-in-day-out make coming to work every day a pleasure.

“I’m excited to get back fit and help the squad with the final run in. It would be amazing to make some history as a group and I really feel we are building something here.”

Rennie added: “Lee is an extremely impressive athlete and a model professional. He’s battled with injuries a bit but when fit he is one of the most lethal finishers in our squad.”