Duhan van der Merwe rejoins Edinburgh Rugby after Worcester Warriors collapse
The capital club announced that he had signed a long-term deal “subject to visa, medical and regulatory clearances”.
The Scotland and British & Irish Lions winger spent four highly successful seasons at the capital club averaging almost a try every two games before leaving in summer 2021 to play in the English Premiership.
He made a big impression at Worcester, helping them win the Premiership Rugby Cup last season, but the club has been dogged by financial problems and were partially liquidated on Wednesday. Judge Nicholas Briggs instructed that WRFC Players Ltd, a subsidiary of WRFC Trading Ltd through which players and some staff are paid, be wound up. It means the players’ contracts are terminated, freeing them to join other clubs.
The signing of van der Merwe, 27, was announced at 5pm on Wednesday, a few hours after Worcester suffered their latest hammer blow.
Mike Blair, the Edinburgh coach, expressed sympathy for the English club.
“I’d first like to send my thoughts to all those impacted at Worcester and to all players, staff and supporters affected by today’s sad news,” Blair told Edinburgh Rugby’s website.
“Duhan is a phenomenal athlete and rugby player who’s showcased his abilities at the highest level. He developed significantly in his three years here and we’re looking forward to continuing that together. He’s very much one of our own and we’re really pleased he’s coming home.
“It’s an exciting development for the entertaining, attacking brand of rugby we’re building at the club and something I’m sure supporters will be thrilled about too.”
Van der Merwe’s return significantly bolsters Edinburgh’s already impressive attacking options. The club already has wingers Darcy Graham, Emiliano Boffelli, Damien Hoyland and summer signing Wes Goosen on its books.
“We were already pretty strong in that area, but Duhan becoming available as part of the goings on at Worcester was hard for Scottish Rugby and Edinburgh Rugby to ignore,” added Blair.
“We’re really pleased to see Duhan back in Edinburgh colours and for supporters to watch him competing for a spot on the wing week in, week out at DAM Health Stadium is very exciting indeed.”
The 6ft 4in, 105kg strike-runner scored 32 tries in 67 appearances for Edinburgh after joining from Montpellier in 2017.
The South African-born player qualified for Scotland on residency grounds in 2020 and has an even better strike rate for the national side, with 12 tries in 19 appearances for Gregor Townsend’s side. His form with Edinburgh and Scotland saw him called up by the Lions for the tour of South Africa in summer 2021 and he played in all three Test matches against the Springboks.
Van der Merwe, who had been linked with a move to France, said he was delighted to rejoin Edinburgh but sad at the way things ended at Sixways.
“I’d like to thank the Worcester fans and staff for all their support during this difficult period, it’s something I’ll never forget,” he said.
“Edinburgh is home and it’s a club I have a special connection with. Many of the players and staff are like family to me and I’m hugely excited to return and get started once again.
“I’ve kept tabs on the club and it’s clearly in a really positive place. It’ll be special to make my ‘second debut’ for the team – running out at the new stadium in front of the Edinburgh supporters will be an amazing feeling. I can’t wait to get started.”
Worcester’s plight means an uncertain future for players and staff. Props Rory Sutherland and Murray McCallum, both Scotland internationals, are on the radar of both Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, but other clubs have also been linked with the pair.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is pursuing Worcester, who are suspended from all competitions, for unpaid tax in the region of £6 million.