After being ruled out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury in early February, Glasgow Warriors wing DTH van der Merwe has made a quicker than expected recovery and is now in the mix for next Friday’s Guinness Pro14 semi-final against Ulster at Scotstoun.
Assistant coach Kenny Murray revealed yesterday that the experienced 33-year-old is back “in full swing” a month sooner than was previously predicted and could feature in the crunch game, which Glasgow hope to win and secure a place in what would be a home final at Celtic Park on Saturday 25 May.
Four years ago, Van der Merwe scored the late match-levelling try against Ulster in the then Pro12 semi-final at Scotstoun. Finn Russell kicked a brilliant touchline conversion and the 55-times capped Canada wing went on to score again in the Belfast final as Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow secured a historic title with victory over Munster.
Murray said: “DTH is in full swing, back doing everything.
“That’s two or three months now, so he’s fully training and in contention. Lee Jones is also there. Both he and DTH will be available for selection.”
Murray also revealed that Warriors co-captain Callum Gibbins has cleared his head injury protocols after missing the 34-10 win over Edinburgh at the end of the regular season, among other good news on the injury front.
“Callum passed it. I think it was the day after we played [Edinburgh] he passed it, so he timed it quite well to get a bit of a rest,” added the coach.
“[Hooker] Fraser Brown came off [against Edinburgh]. He had a foot injury, so he’s again on track to play against Ulster. We’re just managing him this week to make sure he’s not overdoing it.
“Niko [Matawalu] got a wee bang on his leg, so that’s why he’s just hobbling about on the sidelines at the moment.”
Murray admitted that the return of a senior figure like Van der Merwe, who has experience of winning the championship, is a great boost as the Warriors keep themselves ticking over during what is a long gap to that home semi-final.
“He’s not had a game, he’s just had full contact out there [at training],” continued Murray. “He wasn’t ready, contact-wise, for that last game. It was touch-and-go, but we just felt it was too much of a risk. He brings his experience of big games and there’s his ball carrying ability, his ability to beat players in attack and also his defensive ability. He’s a good talker in the back three, he reads situations really well and he works well with Hoggy [full-back Stuart Hogg], so it will be interesting to see who gets that starting position.”
Murray is confident that Glasgow have managed the end of the season and build-up to the last-four clash better than they did last year when they were humbled at home by Scarlets.
“We had plans to try to get a [bounce] game. They didn’t materialise, so we just get on with it, that’s it,” he said. “We try to create the intensity here at training and we’ve got a squad of 50 guys, so we can get 15 on 15 really easily.”
Ulster will come looking to avenge that 2015 loss and do to Glasgow what they did to them by denying them a home city final. They were beaten 30-7 by the Warriors on their last Pro14 visit last month, but Murray is anticipating a close battle. “Ulster played well at the weekend [winning their quarter-final against Connacht] and the last time they came here they got over the line twice and didn’t get tries, so that game was a lot closer than the scoreline suggested. So, our mindest’s really good, we’ve won eight league games in a row and know we’ve made this a bit of a fortress again, so we’re confident that if we play to our ability we can do well.”