Duhan ‘buzzing’ for Lions Test debut against Springboks

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Duhan Van der Merwe

Proving a point to his countrymen will be the last thing on Duhan van der Merwe’s mind when he lines up against the Springboks in the first Test for The British & Irish Lions.

Born and raised in South Africa, the 26-year-old winger played twice for the Junior Springboks in 2014 before heading overseas and settling in Scotland after signing for Edinburgh in 2017.

He qualified for his adoptive country on the three-year residency rule and made his Scotland debut in October 2020, lighting up the international stage with eight tries in 10 Tests.

Preview: South Africa v Lions

That sensational run of form earned him a place in the Lions squad, where Van der Merwe has continued to thrive with five tries in four appearances in the famous red jersey.

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But rather than worrying about all the noise around his selection and talk of verbals coming his way from the Springboks, the Scotland powerhouse is only interested in one thing – scoring tries

“In any game you play you always get some verbals here and there, you get people getting stuck into you and I’m used to it, I know I’ll get a few boys holding on to me, pushing me,” he said.

Duhan van der Merwe Lions

“I’m just going to avoid it and focus on my game. I don’t get stuck into those bits. Every game you get a few words here or there, but you just have to get on with it, that’s rugby.

“People can say what they want to say, if you look into those bits, it’s just going to get to you. I’m not really bothered by that. I’m just going to go out there on Saturday and do my thing.

“We are here to do a job and winning the series against the world champions would mean everything to me and the boys. Scoring a try would be very special as well.

“I like to say it’s my job [to score tries] so if I can get one it will be special. I’ve got nothing to prove to them, I came over and played for Scotland and The British & Irish Lions.

“I’m just going to go out and show what I can do. It’s been six years and I don’t have sour grapes or anything like that, it’s not about going out and showing them they should have kept me.

“I’m happy with how everything went with my move and it got me to where I’m sitting now and I’m absolutely buzzing, so I’m happy with how things worked out for me to be honest.”

Duhan van der Merwe

Van der Merwe played for South Africa in the Junior World Cup final in 2014 before signing for Edinburgh three years later, having enjoyed a brief stint at Montpellier in between.

And while he admitted his family and friends will likely be cheering on the Springboks during the three-Test series, Van der Merwe would love nothing more to down the world champions.

“Obviously my family and my mates are buzzing for me,” he said. “A lot of them are probably going to support the Springboks but have also said when I get ball in hand, they’ll support me.

“There are a couple of jokes here and there with them saying, ‘Don’t score too many tries against us’, and that’s the kind of chat I’ve been having with them so far.

“It’s a shame that they are only a couple of hours away and can’t be at the game but it is what it is and you just have to get on with it. It has been nice being back in South Africa.

“People ask me how I feel and it’s a bit weird because normally when I come back I know I’m on holiday but I’ve not had that feeling as we’re here to do a job and win the series.

“I made my Scotland debut in October and I never thought I’d be sitting here representing The British & Irish Lions, I just can’t wait for the game – I’m buzzing to be honest.”

Not one to sweat about the small stuff, Van der Merwe revealed he will only switch into game mode when he arrives at Cape Town Stadium ahead of his Test bow for the Lions.

Lions Duhan try

“I’m fairly relaxed, I’ll just chill in my bed, go down to the sauna, steam room and get in the jacuzzi, annoy the physios and get a massage. Have some coffee with the boys,” he said.

“We’ll play some COD (Call of Duty), I don’t like to focus too early on the game. Even on the day I just like to chill out and when we get to the stadium that’s when I switch on.”

One of the most intriguing battles in Cape Town will see Van der Merwe take on Cheslin Kolbe, considered by many – including the Scotland winger – to be among the best back-three players in the world.

But while Van der Merwe acknowledged the 2019 Ruby World Cup-winner is a threat the Lions must contain, he also warned South Africa that Kolbe will also have to handle him.

“Cheslin is an amazing player, probably one of the best in the world at the moment. It’s going to be a big challenge for me and something I’m really looking forward to,” he added.

“Going up against him, we are two completely different players and I’m looking forward to that battle. He’s got very good feet, he is a quick guy and throws his body around.

“His ability to beat boys one-on-one is amazing so it’s just about staying on top of him, not giving him any time on the ball, and when I have my shot at him, he needs to defend me as well.”

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