Duhan van der Merwe’s direct ball-carrying has established the Edinburgh winger as the most potent strike-runner in the Guinness PRO14. He leads the league in ‘clean breaks’ with 29 (second place Rhyno Smith of the Cheetahs has only 18), in defenders beaten with 67 (Smith has 49) and in metres gained with 870 (Smith has 742).  

While fellow Edinburgh wide man Darcy Graham causes defenders all sorts of bother with his electrifying change of pace and a sidestep like a shard of lightning, van der Merwe’s effectiveness comes from his size, power and ability to bust tackles – and the South African is equally straight forward in an interview environment. 

“It was stop-start-stop-start – it was one of those games where we had so many errors and stuff, it was just, honestly, a really shit game,” was his frank assessment of Friday night’s defeat to Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield. 

Such blunt clarity in thinking is no bad thing as Edinburgh enter the business end of the season, because it makes it easier to compartmentalise the setbacks and focus absolutely on the next task in hand, which happens to be arguably the biggest game in the club’s history

The capital side will take on Ulster in a home PRO14 play-off semi-final next Saturday evening and van der Merwe is unequivocal that Friday’s set-back will have absolutely no bearing on how next weekend’s game will go. 

“There’s boys who got opportunities [on Friday], but that game is not going to determine what happens next week,” he stated. “We’ll come in fresh on Monday ready to get stuck in against Ulster. What’s the point in reviewing this game? We’ve made 10 changes [from Edinburgh’s regular starting XV].” 

The fact van der Merwe played against Glasgow was initially a surprise. Given how important he has become to the side, there was a suspicion that he would be one of the star men wrapped in cottonwool for what was effectively a dead-rubber, but the player and head coach Richard Cockerill took the decision that it was worth the risk if it meant gaining valuable match sharpness.  

“I felt I needed a run,” said van der Merwe. “I was blowing a bit in the first game [back after lockdown] and I just need to get minutes under my belt. You are always a bit rusty your first few games back, so I just want to get through that and back into form.” 

Van der Merwe is straight to the point again when asked about his international prospects. The 25-year-old passed the residency qualification to play for Scotland during lockdown which means he is now a contender to be involved in the upcoming Autumn Test schedule. It is a fairly delicate situation given that a large number of rugby supporters are still not entirely comfortable with the idea of national teams being able to adopt players after three short years – but this latest in a long line of ‘Jock Boks’ does not tip-toe round the subject. 

“Obviously, since I have become Scottish qualified, things have changed for me personally because now I know I need to perform every single game, not just to be in the Edinburgh starting XV but to get a chance to play for Scotland,” he said.  

“That’s definitely in the back of my head because I know I am competing against Blair [Kinghorn], Darcy [Graham], the Glasgow wingers, guys who have played before for Scotland, so I know there is a lot of competition there, so I just want to be performing at my best and hopefully get a shot. 

“I do want to play for Scotland and I do want to give it a crack, but for now I am just really focussed on performing for Edinburgh in the semi-finals and hopefully getting some silverware for the club – that would be amazing. 

“I’m just glad to be back playing, to be honest. At one point I thought they were just going to scrap the whole season and we were in such a good spot. I was in lockdown thinking: ‘Surely give us a shot – we’ve not been a position like this in however long Edinburgh has been a club’. It is obviously exciting that we now have this opportunity. It is massive for the club and it is massive for the boys. 

“There is a big buzz. The club has not been in the situation we are in now so we’ve got one shot or then maybe wait another year. So, it has to be now. We have to go out next week and beat Ulster.”