Rassie Erasmus ‘proud in a weird way’ of Duhan van der Merwe making Lions squad
Share this article:
CAPE TOWN – Duhan van der Merwe once played in the same SA Under-20 side as captain Handre Pollard and was a replacement in the 2014 Junior World Championship final against England.
Seven years later, he is getting ready to face Pollard, this time for the British and Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa.
It has been a remarkable journey for Van der Merwe – younger brother of Springbok hooker Akker – from Hoerskool Outeniqua in George to SA Schools, SA Under-20, Montpellier, Edinburgh and now Scotland.
He has scored eight tries in 10 Tests for his adopted nation, and his powerful surges down the left wing have quickly made him a household name in the UK.
But he could easily have been in the green-and-gold Bok jersey come July 24 at Cape Town Stadium, when the first Test will be played. He turns 26 on June 4, so a Lions Test cap against his former country would be an amazing birthday present.
“In 2014, Jacques (Nienaber) was the high-performance manager at SA Rugby and was helping with all the teams, and the Junior Springboks fell under him. I think he was in the Handre Pollard SA Under-20 team that played in New Zealand, which lost in the final,” Erasmus told the UK media this week ahead of the Lions tour.
“So, we know him pretty well. I remember sitting with him and his dad in the office, discussing his future in sevens. I remember him having trials at the sevens, and he played SA Schools and SA Under-20.
“I’m not quite sure why he didn’t make the sevens squad, or what his decision was, or whether he wanted to go into the 15-man game. He came through the full path in SA rugby, and we are fully of the opinion that… we are not in the mindset that because he is not playing here, that he doesn’t deserve to play anywhere else.
“We feel if a guy goes over there, like a CJ Stander, good for him. Hell, the way he has played, nobody can argue (that he doesn’t deserve Lions selection). And it’s weird that in a way, we are proud of him. But obviously when we play against him, it’s going to be tough.
“We are happy for him, and we know him really well. And he would obviously know our guys very well.”
If Van der Merwe does wear the No 11 jersey against the Boks on July 24, he will have to be at his best, as he will be facing arguably the best pound-for-pound rugby player in the world right now – Cheslin Kolbe.