Sibling rivalry could make it an intriguing tour for the big Edinburgh winger who was named in Warren Gatland’s 37-man squad on Thursday.
Akker van der Merwe, a hooker, is four years older than Duhan and has been capped three times by the Springboks. He currently plays for Sale Sharks and is known back in South Africa as ‘the Raging Warthog’, such is the all-action nature of his game.
He and Duhan grew up in George in the Western Cape but their careers diverged when the younger brother decided to try his luck in Europe in 2016. The big winger left the Blue Bulls to join Montpellier but his stint in France was disrupted by a hip injury and he moved to Edinburgh after a season.
His progress since has been nothing short of meteoric and after ripping up the Pro14 for three years he qualified for Scotland on residency grounds.
He marked his international debut with a try against Georgia last October and has kept on scoring. Eight tries in ten Tests is a strike rate Gatland could not ignore and the 25-year-old has proved himself a big occasion player with the vital score in the win over England and a double against France.
The word whirlwind barely does it justice.
“I would never in a million years have thought about being named in the squad,” van der Merwe said. “I made my debut for Scotland six months ago and if someone had asked me then if I would make the Lions squad I would have said no.
“So I’m very humbled and honoured to be selected. I’m still quite speechless to be honest.”
So how does he feel about the prospect of taking on big brother?
“There’s probably a small possibility of that, depending if he gets named in the squad and if I get a chance to play. But at the moment there’s still a chance and that would be very cool.”
Duhan said the family had already worked out a plan to support both brothers.
“The last time we spoke they said they were going to get a special jersey created – one side Springboks and the other the British & Irish Lions! My mum and dad said they would support me when I have the ball and they will support my brother when he has the ball. Which is very fair.”
Van der Merwe remembers watching on television when the Lions last visited South Africa, in 2009.
“My memory of the Lions was when Jaque Fourie scored that brilliant try in the corner [in the first Test]. I remember that one very well.
“If someone had told me then when the next tour came around that I would be playing against the Springboks for the Lions I would have said, ‘no way mate!’
“As a small boy growing up I would have been thinking that one day I want to play for South Africa. But it just shows you how things can change. And I’m really happy how things have worked out for me.”