British & Irish Lions

SA-born wing Van der Merwe prepared for tough outing, ‘some verbals’ against Boks

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Duhan van der Merwe of the British and Irish Lions (Gallo)
Duhan van der Merwe of the British and Irish Lions (Gallo)

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has prepared South African-born Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe for a "special" welcome from the Springboks in the first Test in Cape Town on Saturday.

The former Hoërskool Outeniqua pupil starts at left wing, opposite SA's right wing magician Cheslin Kolbe, ahead of in-form Wales flyer Josh Adams this weekend.

Van der Merwe has had a decent feel of what it's like to play in South Africa again during the tour matches against the Sharks (twice), but nothing will compare to the confrontation awaiting him at Cape Town Stadium.

READ | Nienaber on Springbok front row depth: 'We could swap them and nobody would raise an eyebrow'

Gatland said Van der Merwe, who left these shores in 2016 for France before going to Scotland a year after, understood the enormity of the mental and physical challenge that lay ahead.

And that he was going to trade blows with arguably the best rugby player on the planet, Kolbe, didn't make the outing any easier.

"It's going to be a real challenge for him (Van der Merwe)," said Gatland.

"Cheslin didn't get many opportunities in the SA 'A' game, but he had one and made the most of it. And we can't afford to do what we did in that game and kick the ball down his throat.

"Hopefully, we won't give him as much time and space on the ball on Saturday.

"I spoke to Van der Merwe on Tuesday and said to him, 'You know what's coming on the weekend?' He was fully aware.

"I presume every time he (Van der Merwe) touches the ball, they will try to hit him with everything they've got, and there'll probably be some 'verbals' thrown at him as well.

"But he is well aware of what's at stake, and he's been incredibly relaxed. The way he's been running with the ball, beating defenders and scoring tries ... he was the top try-scorer in the Six Nations."

Gatland said he had a tough conversation with Adams, who missed out completely despite scoring eight tries in four outings since the Lions series warm-up matches began against Japan in Edinburgh.

Adams, who finished the 2019 Rugby World Cup as the leading try-scorer, can play across the back three but missed out on a bench position to compatriot Liam Williams.

"It was a really tough call in terms of [wingers] and leaving Josh Adams out. I spoke to Josh about what a tough call it was for us," Gatland said.

"Adams had a pretty emotional week last week after the birth of his child. And, by his own admission, he probably didn't play as well as he normally would last Saturday, and that's completely understandable.

"He also had a little knock to his hip and quite a significant blow to his sternum, which was pretty sore."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 18:00.

Teams:

South Africa

15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse

British and Irish Lions

15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Elliot Daly (England), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Rory Sutherland (Scotland), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 20 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Owen Farrell (England), 23 Liam Williams (Wales)

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