DTH van der Merwe remembers when 5000 fans at an 1872 Cup game made it “the biggest day of the season” but the Canadian’s 100th game for the Glasgow Warriors shows just how far they’ve come.
A record crowd of over 23,000 is expected on “Silver Saturday” as the 1872 Cup game completes a festival of the Scottish domestic game, four club finals taking place on the big pitch before the Warriors and Edinburgh decide the destiny of the 1872 Cup in the new-for-2018 third leg of the inter-city contest.
Having returned to Scotstoun after season away with Scarlets and Newcastle, the popular and prolific wing has quickly extended his club record tally of tries, which included one on his debut at Murrayfield.
“My first game there, and Dan Parks puts a little grubber through for me to score,” he recalled. “It’s going to be a special day, I left here just short of the century on 96 but I am lucky enough to have been able to come back and get a few games on the bounce.
“When I first came to Glasgow at Firhill there were 1500 people, a thousand maybe, for league games and for the derby we’d get 5000 people and it was a big thing.
“It’s amazing the work done over the years, now we get a full house at Scotsotun every week and we get a big crowd for the derby, which is as it should be.
“These are massive games but overall it is just the way we have grown as a club, from the top to the bottom, is what stands out most for me.”
Glasgow have slowed from their electric first half of the season, and the team are keen to show that the European losses and two under-par performances in the 1872 Cup don’t suggest they’re a team that struggles in big games.
“I think the belief is still there for the boys to win those big games,” said van der Merwe. “I wasn’t here for some of the bigger games at the beginning of the season, Europe especially, but it was a pretty tough draw they had, those teams are right at the top of the leagues that they play in.
“But I still believe that Glasgow has a team, has a squad that can compete at the top level on any given day.
“The derbies are different, teams bring a totally different perspective to the game, and form does go out the window. There’s that big of niggle as well, which I enjoy!”
Meanwhile for Edinburgh Ben Toolis is relishing another tussle with Scotland squad mates Jonny Gray and Tim Swinson as Edinburgh press for the point that will prolong their season and get them into next term’s Champions Cup.
“That’s why you play, for games like this against your rivals, especially the back end of the season going to the play-offs you want to get in form and finish the season off well,” he said. “There’s going to be heaps of individual battles out there on the weekend, so it’s going to be an exciting game.
“The pressure is on us to qualify for Europe and the play-offs still, so we’re ready to go and get stuck in.”
Edinburgh will aim high, however, and try to regain the 1872 Cup.
“Ulster have sort of come back into form the last few weeks and obviously they’re right on our tails,” he said.”Glasgow haven’t been in the best form, so we’re going to go out there not just to get a bonus point and qualify, we want to go out there and win.
“That’s the mindset we’re going to have and are going to need to have to get any form of result.”