Star wing Duhan van der Merwe will leave Edinburgh for the Gallagher Premiership’s Worcester Warriors next season as the capital club start to make some hard choices on out-of-contract players.
The 25-year-old South African-born player, who qualified for Scotland through residency this summer and made his debut against Georgia in October, has signed a three-year deal with the Sixways club.
Van der Merwe was signed by Edinburgh from Montpellier in 2017 and since has developed into one of the most prolific strike weapons in the Guinness PRO14. Last season he led the league in clean breaks, metres made and defenders beaten.
Big blow for Edinburgh.
Van der Merwe beat 80 defenders last season in the PRO14, next best player was on 49.
Van der Merwe made 31 clean breaks, next best was on 18.
971 metres run, over 200 metres more than next best. https://t.co/54sneig7jb
— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) January 4, 2021
He scored 31 tries in 64 appearances for the capital club, and has three in just five appearances for Scotland so far.
“I’ve loved my time in Edinburgh and it was a really tough decision to leave a club that has helped me develop so much as a player,” he said.
“I would like to thank the fans and staff for their great support over the past three years and look forward to giving my all for the rest of this campaign.”
A sign of financial realities for Scottish pro rugby
The departure of van der Merwe is a sign of the post Covid-19 financial realities for Edinburgh and for pro rugby in Scotland as a whole.
While admitting his disappointment at the player’s departure yesterday, Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill suggested the wing had been sacrificed to keep money back for others out of contract.
“We’ll be disappointed to see Duhan go – he’s a quality player – however his performances have attracted a lot of attention this season,” said the coach, who has said in recent weeks that he will aggressively seek to retain the club’s top players.
“We’ve had to cut our cloth accordingly to stay competitive across the squad, with good news on that front coming soon.”
Watson and Ritchie also at the end of their contracts
Star back rowers Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie are two more players that are out of contract at the end of the season. Watson is reportedly being targeted by Racing 92, where Scotland stand-off Finn Russell plays.
“We’ll wish Duhan all the best at his new club when the time comes but he’s an Edinburgh player for a few more months yet,” added Cockerill. “He’ll be here to help us push up the table in the Guinness PRO14 and continue to compete on the Heineken Champions Cup.”
Van der Merwe is slightly different than the “project player” template of players who qualify for Scotland through residency – such as team mates WP Nel and Pierre Schoeman.
He was something of a “punt” by the Edinburgh management when first signed on a season-long deal in 2017. He has signed two extensions to that original contract since.
It was only when his development rocketed that he became regarded as a possible residency-qualified player. Such was his prolific form for Edinburgh that he went straight into the Scotland set-up when he qualified this summer.