Player Focus with Duhan van der Merwe
We caught up with Duhan van der Merwe prior to the season's suspension as the winger discussed his try-scoring form, playing with confidence and always being ready to strike
Duhan, you had scored 11 tries prior to the season suspension, more than your season total in each of the last two campaigns. What has been the difference this year?
“To be honest, my body is just feeling very good at the moment. I don’t have any niggles – which I have in the past – and I’m just enjoying my rugby. I feel as confident I as probably ever have in my professional career.
“I had 11 tries on the season. Yeah, a few of them were just walk-ins, but as a winger you take them and it’s about being in the right place at the right time.
What has been your favourite try this season?
“I think my second try against Wasps at home earlier this year was pretty cool. Yeah, I’d have to go for that one…”
You sometimes don’t touch the ball for 20-30 minutes in a match, but you have still managed to make an impact in those games. Is that something you’ve worked on?
“The thing about playing on the wing is that you don’t get many opportunities. You look at Sean Maitland against France in the Guinness Six Nations match earlier this year. He didn’t have a massive impact throughout the 80 minutes, but still popped up with two scores – that in itself is a skill.
“You don’t get many opportunities throughout the 80 minutes in any professional match, so you have to make them count. That’s what I always tell myself going into every game. When you get that chance, you better make something happen – and so far this year, I think I’ve managed to do that.
You made your debut for the club in late 2017 away to South African side Cheetahs. What’s changed in that time, apart from a slightly improved haircut?
“My lid is a lot better now, I’ll give you that! I think I’m just a lot more rounded and confident player these days. Back then, it was probably only my fourth or fifth game in professional rugby and now I have more than 50 under my belt.
“So with time and games played, you obviously become more confident in your own skin while I’ve really worked on the softer skills in my game and I think it’s paying off. I’m still not the finished product, that’s for sure, but I’ve come a long way in a short space of time.”
Your fellow South Africans have really settled into the squad this season One guy, Mike Willemse, has played a ton of rugby at hooker. How have you rated him so far this season?
“Mike has been amazing for us this season to be honest. When Stu [McInally] goes away to Scotland, he has to step up and that’s exactly what he has done. Even when Stu is here, he brings such an energy off the bench.
“He is very good over the ball, so full credit to him. He’s done very well here at Edinburgh and played a lot rugby in a short space of time. Good on him.”
Another South African Nic Groom has come in and impressed from the get-go. He was made captain at the start of the season in McInally’s absence and has taken everything in his stride. What impresses you about Nic?
“He’s another guy who has just been so good for us. He’s a very good leader in this squad and in many ways, we all look up to him. He’s got experience in both northern and southern hemisphere rugby. He’s a massive asset for this team and we’re lucky to have him.”