DTH van der Merwe has become the third big name to announce his departure from Glasgow at the end of the season.
Head coach Gregor Townsend has already suffered the news that the climax of the current campaign would see Scotland and British & Irish Lions wing Sean Maitland move to London Irish, while mercurial Fijian scrum-half Niko Matawalu has also been tempted south to the English Premiership with a move to Bath.
However, Canada international Van der Merwe’s decision to join the Scarlets at the end of the season and so follow in the footsteps of John Barclay, who headed to the Parc y Scarlets in the summer of 2013, will come as a major disappointment to the Warriors faithful, particularly on the eve of Glasgow’s Guinness Pro12 top-of-the-table meeting with the Ospreys at Scotstoun tomorrow.
The 28-year-old, who was sourced by Sean Lineen, has scored 39 tries in 90 appearances for the Warriors over a six-year period in Glasgow and has been in fine form recently, scoring a hat-trick of tries in Warriors’ penultimate European Rugby Champions Cup game against Montpellier and also getting on the scoresheet against Zebre last Sunday.
A committed team player with friendly demeanour and an intense work ethic, Van der Merwe is a popular figure around Scotstoun but he has admitted the time had come to seek a new challenge.
“I am extremely grateful to Glasgow Warriors for all that they have done for me since I joined back in 2009,” he said. “I have had six great seasons at Glasgow but I feel that the time is right for me to face a new challenge. We have some big games coming up between now and the end of the season and after missing the second part of last season, including the (Pro12) final through injury, I’m hoping I can play my part this time around.”
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Head coach Gregor Townsend has acknowledged Van der Merwe will be a big loss: “DTH has been a great player for us over the last six years and has become the club’s record try scorer.
“He has always given one hundred per cent and has played his part in the development of the club. We’ll be sorry to see him go, but we wish him well when he leaves us in May.”
The recruitment drive to replace three key members of the Glasgow backline will now be viewed with intense scrutiny by the denizens of Scotstoun.
Meanwhile Glasgow have moved to bolster their second row options ahead of tomorrow’s visit by Ospreys.
Warriors lost Tim Swinson to the Scotland Six Nations squad on Tuesday after Richie Gray withdrew with an arm injury and have added Edinburgh Rugby locks Fraser McKenzie and Alex Toolis to their squad on loan. McKenzie is available for tomorrow’s game, while Tooils has joined on a short-term loan. Heriot’s back-rower Jason Hill, who scored for the Scotland Club XV in the recent win over Ireland, has also been training with the squad.
Head coach Townsend said: “We’d like to thank Edinburgh Rugby for loaning us Fraser
McKenzie and Alex Toolis and we’re also very grateful to Heriot’s. It’s a great opportunity for Jason (Hill) to train with us and we look forward to involving him more during the season.”
Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons defended the loan deals. He said: “We have always done that – certainly in my time at Edinburgh.
“Because they have had more internationalists the requests have come just the one way, but I have no doubt it would be reciprocated.”
Asked if such arrangements could be seen to undermine the credibility of the Guinness Pro12 competition, the South African coach said: “I can’t comment on that. They have the rules for the Pro12 and as long as one complies with those rules then that’s fair enough.
“People that administer the Pro12 will have thought carefully about the rules of the competition, and for us as coaches it is just a question of complying with those rules.”