How South African-born van der Merwe is coping with criticism of his Lions selection
George-born Duhan van der Merwe has explained how he is ignoring the begrudgers who are saying the Scotland-qualified winger shouldn’t be representing the Lions on their upcoming tour to South Africa. The 26-year-old became Scottish eligible last year after spending three seasons in Edinburgh and his strike rate of eight tries in ten Test appearances resulted in him gaining Lions squad selection last month.
It was 2014 when van der Merwe represented the Junior Springboks in the 2014 World Cup final but he soon embarked on the winding journey that will now see him run out at Murrayfield on Saturday against Japan wearing the No11 Lions jersey.
The winger played some provincial matches for the Bulls in early 2016 before spending a year at Montpellier prior to his career-making move to Edinburgh, but even that club bond hasn’t been unbreakable as shortly after breaking into the Scotland team last autumn it was announced that he will be playing in next season’s Gallagher Premiership with bottom club Worcester and leaving Edinburgh after four seasons.
His call-up by the Lions in the interim has apparently needled some South Africans but that criticism is something he is not dwelling on ahead of Sunday’s flight south to Johannesburg for the eight-match tour that includes a three-game Test series versus the Springboks.
“I have had a think about that and I’m just going ignore all those kind of bits,” he said when quizzed following Friday’s captain’s run about his South Africans connections and the reaction his selection has generated in his homeland. “I have just been ignoring all the stuff people have been saying on social media. I know how I feel in my heart sitting here representing the Lions and that is all that matters.
Rassie Erasmus recalls Duhan's fork in the road moment with South African rugby. https://t.co/DLQpFrcs0u
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 30, 2021
“You get the hard comment – he is born in South Africa, he shouldn’t be representing Scotland or the Lions and he is going back to South Africa and he shouldn’t be representing the Lions, all those kind of bits. I don’t really want to go into detail about that. I just put all that stuff behind me and just focus on what I can focus on,” he continued, adding that the barbs are a motivation for him to do well in the weeks ahead.
“I left South Africa at the age of 20 and if you asked me then do you ever think you would represent the British and Irish Lions on tour to South Africa I would have said no. Look, I am absolutely buzzing being involved. I’m looking forward to going to South Africa and representing the Lions.
“All my friends are very excited to watch the games on TV and my family is backing me, which is the most important thing for me. All my family and my mates are behind me. They can’t wait to see me play,” he said, adding how the strict bubble restrictions in Edinburgh mean that he can’t see his locally-based girlfriend even though she is just four minutes away from the team hotel.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 7, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now