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Scottish speedster Duhan van der Merwe first showed his heels in the FNB Varsity Cup

Since the inception of the FNB Varsity Cup competition in 2008, many former players from the premier intervarsity rugby competition have gone on to make their mark on the global stage. One player who is currently a big talking point in the rugby world is the highly impressive Duhan van der Merwe. The former FNB UP-Tuks winger has become an international superstar for his adopted country, Scotland.

The George-born speedster first showed his try-scoring prowess in the Varsity Cup and still holds the record for most tries – 6 – in a single Varsity Cup match along with Munster and former FNB Madibaz loose forward Chris Cloete. 


The 28-year-old has continued his prodigious try-scoring ability at international level with his match-defining hat-trick for Scotland that helped sink England 30-21 in a Six Nations Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield recently.  In the process, he stretched his career tally to an impressive 26 international touchdowns in 36 tests.


Van der Merwe is just one of more than 2 000 players to come through the Varsity Cup ranks and go on to play at higher levels. The competition has produced more than 50 Springboks and 40 Blitzboks representing their country with distinction.


The former SA U20 player first showed glimpses of his tremendous potential in 2016 when he honed his skills for Tuks, starting all eight of their matches in that year’s Varsity Cup competition. In their final match of the regular season against bottom-of-the-log team FNB UCT Ikey Tigers, Van der Merwe scored six of his side's eleven tries in a 100–25 victory.


After the Varsity Cup, Van der Merwe made his domestic first-class debut for the Blue Bulls in the 2016 Currie Cup qualification series. He made an appearance as a replacement in a 14–19 defeat to the Eastern Province Kings, and made his first start a week later against the Pumas, which would be his final action in a Blue Bulls shirt.


The younger brother of Bulls and former Springbok hooker Akker van der Merwe,  moved to France in July 2016 to join Top 14 side Montpellier, signing a youth contract with the team. A recurring hip injury, and difficulties adjusting to the culture and language, meant he gained little game time.


Van der Merwe then signed a two-year professional contract with Scottish Pro14 side Edinburgh ahead of the 2017-18 season.  In January 2021, it was announced that Van der Merwe would move to England to sign for Worcester Warriors in the Premiership Rugby competition ahead of the 2021-22 season. Due to the club entering administration, all Warriors players had their contracts terminated on 5 October 2022.


Only hours after having his contract terminated at Worcester Warriors it was confirmed that Van der Merwe would return to Edinburgh on a long-term deal. He became available for selection to the Scottish international rugby team in 2020. This was based on residency having then lived in Scotland for three years since he joined Edinburgh in 2017.


The rest as they say is history. Besides representing Scotland in 37 test matches thus far, he was also part of the British & Irish Lions team that played in a three-match Test series against the Springboks in 2021.



by Adnaan Mohamed


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