Duhan van der Merwe returns for Edinburgh against Munster in Limerick tomorrow on the eve of his certain call-up for the Scotland squad, and backs coach Duncan Hodge feels he’s ready to make that giant leap.
Van der Merwe has completed his three-year residency period to qualify to play for Scotland while being the most effective attacking force in the Guinness PRO14 in the last two seasons, and his absence in Edinburgh’s last two games has been keenly felt.
Hodge has had a particular interest in the South African-born wing during his time and feels it’s a good time for him to be tested at the highest level.
“He has progressed so much from the raw, fast kid we saw three years ago,” said Hodge. “He has developed his game and it is a big boost for him to come back.
“When you think a couple of years ago when we didn’t have our best side out there or we were missing a couple of guys, he stole a couple of tries out of nothing. He can make something out of nothing and it is a big boost to have him back.
There’s an element of the unknown ahead because international rugby is so different, Hodge conceded.
“His club form is good enough (to be picked),” he said. “You look at the tries he has scored and some of the things he has done and he is up there with any wingers in our league.
“But it is a big jump. He is that good he should slip in fine, but international rugby is a different beast. There won’t be any physical issues but tactically it is different playing against some of the best players in the world.
“I think he will be absolutely fine and I am sure he will do well if he is picked, but it is a jump up in standard for anybody in any position and not just Duhan.”
Hodge concedes that Edinburgh were not up to pace last week against Ospreys and Munster will target that.
“Going over to Munster is never easy at all, but when you give up a chink of light you are likely to get the same treatment the following week,” he said. “We are under no illusions what is coming to us, we are excited about going over there and giving it our best shot.”
It’ll be a particular test for young centre George Taylor, who figures toi line up opposite Springbok centre Damien De Allende and Ireland’s towering Chris Farrell.
“George works hard, is an intelligent guy and knows the game, and he’s developed really well,” said Hodge. “He’s a physical player himself who makes a lot of linebreaks and puts a lot of pressure on his opposition.
“He’s still got a lot to work on but he deserves every minute he’s been playing. I suspect he’ll have a fair challenge on his hands tomorrow night if he’s up against Farrell and De Allende.”
Jamie Ritchie will also start after missing last week’s game due to Covid-19 contact protocols.
Edinburgh (vs Munster, Guinness PRO14, Thomond Park, Limerick, ko 7.15pm, live on Premier Sports): Damien Hoyland; Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, George Taylor, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Nic Groom; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, WP Nel; Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Nick Haining.
Replacements: Mike Willemse, Pierre Schoeman, Simon Berghan, Andrew Davidson, Mesulame Kunavula, Dan Nutton, Nathan Chamberlain, James Johnstone.