'It’s amazing, I loved it': Duhan van der Merwe assesses Edinburgh's home after second debut
But he looked – and felt – entirely at home on his second debut for Edinburgh, running in two of the team’s nine tries in their 53-8 win over Benetton.
During the winger’s first four years in the capital Edinburgh played their matches at BT Murrayfield, where the capacity is around eight times greater than at their new ground. One of the reasons behind the move was that a crowd of around 5,000 generates far more atmosphere in a 7,800-seat venue than in a 67,000-capacity stadium: Van der Merwe certainly appreciated that difference, although he did admit that the artificial turf was not his favourite surface.
“This place was absolutely bouncing,” the 27-year-old said after the match, in which Edinburgh ended a run of three URC defeats in emphatic fashion. “It’s completely different [to Murrayfield]. I probably prefer the grass pitch, but in here it feels like 15, 20,000 people. It’s amazing. I loved it.
“The surface is OK. Some days I like it and some days I don’t. It feels quite quick but it’s not so good on the knees.
“I haven’t played for a while. I had only played one game since the Summer Tests, so for me it is about getting that match fitness, getting back up to speed and trying to perform before the bigger tests.”
The basic reason for Van der Merwe’s return was that he needed somewhere to play after Worcester went into liquidation, but it was far from being a case of any port in a storm. There are distinct advantages to becoming a home-based player again, one of which is his availability to play against Australia at the end of the month - the match falls outside the recognised Test window, so Worcester would not have had to release him for national duty.
“That’s a boost,” he added. “That was one of the things that was at the back of my head. If I was still at Worcester I would have missed out on playing against Australia, which was a bit shit.
“We [he and Scotland coach Gregor Townsend] had a couple of conversations about me potentially coming back. I’m back now, so could potentially be playing against Australia if selected.”
Given Van der Merwe’s lack of game time, Townsend might prefer him to have another run out against Zebre on Saturday before facing the Wallabies at the end of the month. But Edinburgh, like Glasgow, are sure to be without some of their biggest names for this weekend’s games as Townsend opts to rest them before the Autumn Nations Series.
“We’ll find out soon exactly who will be away [with Scotland],” Edinburgh coach Mike Blair said. “We always knew this was going to be the case. We’ve got 10 managed players whose game time we’ve got to plan - the plan was for a number of them not to be involved next week anyway.
“This period will probably be the biggest of the season for the club. This will show the strength in depth, the unity, the understanding in what we are trying to do. When the guys come back from November I want us to be in a better position than we are now.”