Consolation prizes are continuing to come the way of Edinburgh this week in the wake of their failure to reach next Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 final in Dublin against Leinster. The Scottish club’s hopes of winning a first league title were scuppered by the last-minute penalty kick converted by Ulster’s Ian Madigan at Murrayfield.
With a title shot devastatingly taken from the grasp at the end of a game they had been in command of most of the way through, it would be easy to write off the Edinburgh campaign as a failure but there progress they have made this season has not gone unnoticed.
Having dominated the PRO14 Dream Team that was announced on Wednesday, Edinburgh getting six of their players chosen, that accolade has now been followed on Thursday by the unveiling of Duhan van der Merwe and Richard Cockerill as the respective best player and best coach of the 2019/20 season.
The Guinness players’ player of the season was voted for by the captains and vice-captains at each team in the tournament and van der Merwe impressed, the 25-year-old topping out the Opta stats charts for defenders beaten (76), metres made (906) and clean breaks (31) while scoring seven tries and setting up two.
Van der Merwe said: “I feel hugely privileged to win this award. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I could achieve something this big and it’s a brilliant feeling knowing that it was voted by the guys I face in the Guinness PRO14 week in, week out.
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All have been named in the #GuinnessPRO14 Dream Team!
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) September 9, 2020
“Getting an award like this is massive for me and hopefully highlights that the hard work I’ve put in throughout my career is starting to pay off. I genuinely couldn’t have won this without the help of everyone at Edinburgh and I can’t wait to push the club further next season.”
Cockerill’s arrival in the Scottish capital ignited a resurgence in the club since 2017 and last weekend was their first qualification for a league semi-final. “I’m a little bit surprised, but I’m happy that it gives everybody recognition at Edinburgh,” he said.
“We have worked hard in the last three years to build what we are doing and while it’s always nice to be recognised for an individual award, it’s very much a team effort across the club from the coaching staff, medical team, strength and conditioning guys, that have all worked really hard to do what we’re doing.
“We were obviously hugely disappointed not to reach this year’s Guinness PRO14 final, but we’re determined as ever to bounce back and drive the club forward in 2020/21.”
“In England, they are making it as hard as they can for us – they don’t want their players to go to Scotland. We've got to be strong and step in, we’re a bit weak in that area"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 9, 2020
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