Duhan van der Merwe dropped by Edinburgh as Mike Blair explains Scotland winger's omission

Duhan van der Merwe would normally be one of the first names on any team sheet, but Edinburgh coach Mike Blair has chosen to drop the Scotland winger to the bench against the Ospreys this evening in the hope of provoking a dramatic response.

Having had their URC play-offs ended and been knocked out of the Champions Cup in recent weeks, Edinburgh have nothing tangible to play for in this, their last home game of a deeply disappointing campaign. So Blair has looked for other ways to motivate his players against the Welsh side, and in the case of Van der Merwe that has meant handing his jersey to Damien Hoyland, one of several players for whom this will be a last home outing before leaving the club at the end of the season.

“Partly it’s giving Damo that opportunity,” Blair said when asked to explain that selection – one of four changes to the starting line-up he has made from the team’s last game, the Champions Cup defeat by Leicester. “We want to see Duhan coming on and making a huge impact. He had some brilliant moments for the national team. His availability for us has been sporadic since he signed on, so we’re looking for him to be really motivated when he comes on and show that he’s disappointed not to be in the starting team but prove a point for the following week.

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“We’ve talked about different motivations we’ve got this week. For some guys it will be their last home game for Edinburgh. Some guys will still be trying to push their case for World Cup camp selection. And also there’s a huge amount of pride in the group. We’re not where we want to be in terms of the league table at the moment, but we want to put everything into a good strong finish to the season.”

Duhan van der Merwe has been left out of the Edinburgh team to face Ospreys on Saturday evening.Duhan van der Merwe has been left out of the Edinburgh team to face Ospreys on Saturday evening.
Duhan van der Merwe has been left out of the Edinburgh team to face Ospreys on Saturday evening.

Besides preferring Hoyland to Van der Merwe, Blair has made one other change in his back division, bringing in Ben Vellacott at scrum-half instead of Henry Pyrgos, another who will part company with the team at the end of the season. In the front row, Dave Cherry is at hooker in place of Stuart McInally, while at lock Marshall Sykes takes over from Grant Gilchrist, who has a foot injury that will also rule him out of next week’s final game of the season, away to Ulster. In addition to Gilchrist, Jack Blain, Luke Crosbie, Matt Currie, Wes Goosen, Nick Haining, Henry Immelman, Ben Muncaster and Harry Paterson are all listed as unavailable.

Ospreys have also had a disappointing season and are just a couple of points better off than their hosts. But they do still have a place in next season’s Champions Cup to play for, and have picked a very strong squad for this game, including Alun-Wyn Jones and Adam Beard at lock and George North on the wing.

“They’re pretty impressive,” Blair continued. “The guys they have got on the bench make a big impact when they come on, so we’ve got to take our opportunities when they’re there. This is a fully-loaded Ospreys team who are playing for the Welsh Shield. So they’ll be highly motivated coming up here, and they’ll believe they've got a great opportunity against us. So we have to be absolutely spot-on with our game. It’s going to be a brilliant test.”