But his feelings were soon put into perspective when he and his team-mates joined in the tidy-up operation in the stricken host city of Kamaishi.
“For two days, everyone was speaking about this typhoon coming in, so you kind of expected there to be damage and stuff, and you saw it on the news going through Tokyo, which was about eight hours ahead of us, then it changed course so everyone was bracing for it, and we knew there was a chance the game was cancelled,” recalled the 33-year-old winger, who announced his retirement from international rugby the following week.
“I woke up at 3am just to see what it was like and it was a pretty powerful, but the next morning it was the most beautiful day of the whole time we were in Japan, so it was a massive disappointment not getting to play. First of all you want to know why and see why they actually cancelled the game. You want proof because you’ve worked so hard to be in this tournament and this was the game we had focused on.
“Then I thought I’ll be one of the guys to volunteer to go out into the town [to help with the clean-up] and when we went to the centre of Kamaishi we found the town was flooded with mudslides coming down from the hills.
“The house I went to had an 80-year-old lady living by herself and her house was on stilts, but it was still flooded two feet deep inside. It was quite upsetting to see, but she was used to it, I think. She took everything in her stride, just telling us to throw things out. You make two piles – a keep pile and a throwaway pile – but there were no tears, she just got on and dealt with it.”
In the circumstances, Canada’s game being cancelled seemed a fairly trivial inconvenience, although that sense of frustration will always be there. Van der Merwe knows that all he can do is refocus on club duty with Glasgow Warriors, in the hope that helping them out of their current slump – three losses and only one win in the Pro14 so far – will help ease the pain.
“I’d have liked to have played last weekend seeing as I trained the whole week but I wasn’t up for selection so I could spend some time with the family at home, which was great. Now I’m ready for the season ahead,” he said.
“I’m not happy with the way I and my team played at the World Cup, with some disappointing losses and a lot of points scored against us – so now I want to make it right playing for Glasgow.
“We’re only four games into a 21 game [league] season,” he added. “When I was with the Scarlets, the year we won the league, we lost the first three games of the season, so we’re not panicking yet.
“We just need to build from here, we’ll be re-integrating all the World Cup players again, and we’ve just got to focus on ourselves and fix the things we got wrong on the weekend against the Dragons.”