British & Irish Lions

Bok assistant wary of 'big, strong' Duhan van der Merwe becoming 'handful' in Lions tour

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Duhan van der Merwe  during a British and Irish Lions training session in Saint Peters, Jersey. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Duhan van der Merwe during a British and Irish Lions training session in Saint Peters, Jersey. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
  • Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids has expressed his pleasure at seeing SA-born Scotland winger, Duhan van der Merwe, crack the nod in the British & Irish Lions squad.
  • Davids witnessed many of the 25-year-old's exploits at junior level and admits he was a "great prospect" as a youngster. 
  • He's also very much aware that Van der Merwe could be a handful for South African defences when the tour starts next week.

Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids isn't in the business of wondering whether the local game erred in not keeping Duhan van der Merwe on African shores, noting instead that it's "great to see" the SA-born Scottish winger making the British & Irish Lions squad.

The imposing 25-year-old, a former Junior Springbok and star for Edinburgh, is already a major talking point ahead of the much-anticipated series, having taken international rugby by storm since qualifying for his adopted nation late last year.

Van der Merwe's work-rate and a sharp nose for the tryline - he's scored eight tries in 10 Tests - was enough for Lions mentor Warren Gatland to include him in his touring group.

READ | Duhan van der Merwe to make British & Irish Lions debut against Japan

There can be little doubt, however, that Davids' feelings are a bit mixed on the matter given that he witnessed Van der Merwe's devastating exploits at school for Hoërskool Outeniqua and South Western Districts' Craven Week side, where he called other accomplished players such as Warrick Gelant, Jeandre Rudolph and Dewald Human team-mates.

"Duhan has been a quality player in South Africa and overseas from the outset," Davids said on Wednesday from Bloemfontein, where the Springboks continue their preparation for a two-Test series against Georgia.

"I remember how excellent that Outeniqua team was with him and Warrick at the helm. I actually had the privilege of watching them at school and progressing to SA Schools and the Junior Boks. 

"He was a great prospect going forward. Unfortunately, we also know that a couple of injuries over the years were stumbling blocks in his progress initially, but it's great to see that he overcame all those obstacles."

After only making two senior appearances for the Blue Bulls in 2016, Van der Merwe jetted off to Jake White's Montpellier before a long-term hip injury limited his game-time.

In fact, it's already been well documented that Richard Cockerill, Edinburgh's head coach, signed him despite failing his medical and backed him throughout his rehabilitation.

That investment has harvested a handsome return.

"He's delivered many stand-out performances over the past few years," said Davids. 

"We've seen it with Edinburgh and Scotland. I believe he fully deserves his place."

Davids, in keeping with the pragmatic outlook of the Springbok team in general, also isn't oblivious to the possibility that Van der Merwe could wreak havoc if he's not caged effectively by the Lions' opponents on the trip.

"Duhan is a big, strong wing," he said.

"He's has an exceptional ability to finish and he'll definitely be a handful. We're looking forward to welcoming him back on South African turf and facing him." 

Springbok squad:

Forwards

Thomas du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Joseph Dweba, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Scarra Ntubeni, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Franco Mostert, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Kwagga Smith, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Jasper Wiese

Backs

Faf de Klerk, Herschel Jantjies, Sanele Nohamba, Cobus Reinach, Elton Jantjies, Handre Pollard, Morne Steyn, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Wandisile Simelane, Frans Steyn, Aphelele Fassi, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Yaw Penxe, Rosko Specman, Damian Willemse




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