Graham and Van der Merwe winging their way to success

He may have had to leave the try-scoring glory to his opposite wing, Darcy Graham, on this occasion but Duhan van der Merwe played another blinder in Saturday’s 29-19 win for Edinburgh over Glasgow at BT Murrayfield.
Edinburgh's Duhan van der Merwe is in fine form. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS Group/SRUEdinburgh's Duhan van der Merwe is in fine form. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS Group/SRU
Edinburgh's Duhan van der Merwe is in fine form. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS Group/SRU

The 24-year-old South Africa wing becomes Scotland-qualified in the summer and, whatever your thoughts on a three-year residency rule which has now been extended by World Rugby to five, there is no doubt that Van der Merwe is a gem waiting to be mined.

The former Montpellier man may not have got on the scoresheet this time but made an impact and was happy for his mate Graham to have his name up in lights after two brilliant tries effectively decided the match.

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“He was outstanding. He’s so fast so credit to him. It’s amazing he got two tries and I’m happy for him,” said van der Merwe.

Asked if the 22-year-old Hawick flier was as fast as him, the man from the Western Cape decided it was enough praise, smiled, and simply replied: “No.”

He was happy to gush again, though, on one of Scottish rugby’s brightest sparks heading into the new decade.

Graham has notched five tries in 11 caps for Scotland already and Van der Merwe said: “He’s probably one of the hardest guys to defend against I’d say because he moves a lot faster than me.

“For such a small guy he’s so tough. You think you’ve beaten him and he’ll just come back. He’s got something about him and is an outstanding player. He’s developed a lot over the last year.”

Graham has blossomed since being handed an opportunity by head coach Richard Cockerill in last season’s Heineken Champions Cup pool games against French giants Montpellier and 

The Borderer, who had been with the national sevens set-up, hasn’t looked back since and won his first international cap against Wales in Cardiff at the start of the 2018 November Test series.

He featured in all four of Scotland’s World Cup games in Japan and, while not having the tournament he would have liked, is clearly destined for a bright Test future. On the smaller side in terms of how professional rugby has gone of late, Graham more than makes up for it in terms of pace, ingrained Borders rugby knowledge and tenacity.

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Van der Merwe, meanwhile, was keen to celebrate a hard-fought derby win but also remain focused on a long season still ahead.

“We still have to work on bits of our game but the result was 29-19. The boys stuck it out in the last 15 minutes and we got the points,” said Van der Merwe.

“We can’t take Southern Kings lightly this week or think they are easy or we’ll get beat and that will put us in a bad spot on the log. We need to go out and be focused and play our best game again.

“We are back in on Monday but I’ll definitely have a couple of beers and celebrate the win to be honest. The Kings are obviously going to come over and speed the game up. Space on the wings and a nice brand of rugby. Almost like Glasgow, they like chucking it about and they’ll come over and make it hard for us.”

Edinburgh have had flops following big wins in the past and Van der Merwe accepted that can’t be allowed to happen again.

“That’s what Cockers [head coach Richard Cockerill] said after the game, we need to be up…

“He said we need to get up for the next game. If you think back to last year we lost to Kings away, Zebre away…games like that cost us and we didn’t get to the quarter-finals or into the Champions Cup. We want to be back there. We can’t go out next week and play bad.”

Van der Merwe’s brother Akke is a hooker at Sale Sharks and, in a busy time for rugby there was no chance to meet up, but the Edinburgh 
wing still had opportunity to enjoy some of the festive 

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“We had a South African thing here. We had 18 people,” said Van der Merwe. “We didn’t barbecue we just got a lot of platters and had a couple of beers… a lot of beers actually. That’s the secret. It was a good night.”