The last dance: Duhan's farewell
Duhan van der Merwe arrived in Edinburgh four years ago as a relative unknown, but will be leaving the club as a superstar, leaving a legacy of brilliant tries and destructive attacking flair - writes James Parsons.
Having played his final match for the club on Saturday, Van der Merwe will be leaving the Scottish capital at the end of the season to take up a contract with English Premiership side Worcester Warriors, having earned international recognition during his time at Edinburgh, gaining selection for Scotland and now the British & Irish Lions.
The giant winger didn’t take long to hit the ground running having made his move to Edinburgh from Montpellier in 2017, scoring 10 tries in 18 appearances during his debut season, earning him the club’s Best Newcomer award at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
On-field, he accelerated into action immediately, taking the Guinness PRO14 by storm, however off-field, he does admit that it took a while to get to grips with Scottish banter.
“When I came in Cockers had just started, so the club was building towards something, and I was happy to be a part of that,” said Van Der Merwe.
“From day one, the club was great with me, although in the beginning I thought the players didn’t like me, because I didn’t really understand banter!
“They were giving me a lot of chat, and in our first week in St Andrews, Duncy Weir kept on getting stuck into me.
“I said to him, that we’re going to have to sort things out if there’s something wrong or there’s a problem, and the guys just laughed!
“I kept on thinking why is he getting stuck into me? But now I know what the Scottish banter is!
“I’ve loved living in Edinburgh, I’ve enjoyed being here and I’m sad to leave, but it’s the right decision for me right now.”
Having learnt the ropes of Scottish banter in his maiden season, the winger continued to impress on the field in the coming years, building on his exceptional opening campaign.
The 6’4 winger went on to pick up 31 tries in 66 appearances for the team, with his outstanding form earning him an international call up in the autumn of 2020, as well as winning the Guinness PRO14 Players’ Player of the Season award for the 2019/20 season.
“I didn’t expect things to go as well as they have. I left South Africa because I didn’t see a future there, then went to France where things didn’t really work out.
“I didn’t expect that much when I came to Edinburgh, I said to myself that I’d work hard and see where that gets me. I never expected it to go so well, and to start as much as I did in that first season.
“It showed me that Cockers believed in me, and the players started backing me more, which gave me more and more confidence as I went along.
“I’d never have expected to have been PRO14 Player’s Player of the year, make my debut for Scotland, and now get called up to the Lions.
“It’s funny how things work out, but I’m a big believer in hard work, and how far hard work can get you.”
Van der Merwe’s time at Edinburgh has been littered with amazing moments, including big tries and punishing breaks, however a match that will live long in Burgh supporters memories will be the brace of intercepted tries scored against Glasgow Warriors in December 2018.
“Beating Montpellier at home was a special moment for me, but the best moment was the Glasgow game. I really enjoyed the two interceptions against the Warriors - it felt pretty cool!
“I loved the 1872 Cup matches, they were such big games. When I started, we were the big underdogs, and I was really up for those first few.
“I was only at the club for a week before the boys were telling me about how special those games against Glasgow are.”
Van Der Merwe’s hard work and form has seen him earn one of the biggest accolades in rugby; being selected for the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
Duhan will travel to the country of his birth - alongside Edinburgh Rugby teammates Hamish Watson and Rory Sutherland - having already impressed on the international stage, finishing as top try-scorer in the 2021 Six Nations.
“I’m buzzing, absolutely buzzing. I’ve been able to meet some of the other boys, and I’m so excited to play alongside some great players, and to go against the World Champions in South Africa… how special is that?
“It’s getting closer to the time now. There’s a lot more to it for me, playing against the country where I was born. It’s a big challenge, and it’s one I’m really looking forward to.”
Van Der Merwe will depart Edinburgh when the Rainbow Cup concludes, and he has a message for the fans after four successful seasons at the club.
“Over the years, we’ve got more and more fans, which makes things so special as a player. It’s a shame that I won’t be able to play in front of them again, because I’d like to say goodbye and thank you properly.
"I just want to say thank you to everyone for accepting me, right from the start when I made my debut, and for always cheering me on and backing me. It meant a lot to me, and the supporters have always given me so much confidence.
“Hopefully when I come up to Edinburgh I’ll be able to pop along to some games and say hello to people. It’s goodbye for now, but I’ll probably see everyone soon!”