Duhan van der Merwe: Edinburgh won’t be panicked against Warriors at Scotstoun
In the opening game of the 1872 Cup series at Murrayfield back in the middle of December, Edinburgh enjoyed just 42 per cent of the possession on the day and 38 per cent of territory but still won at a canter thanks to a brace of tries from Duhan van der Merwe – the giant winger with a penchant for the physical and a nose for the whitewash.
“We wanted to put a lot of pressure on their defence,” he says with a thick South African accent. “They’ve got a great backline but if you put some pressure on them then sometimes they are going to force it. I was lucky enough to be in that space where I got the interception and lucky enough to run to the line. I’m happy about that.
“Edinburgh always does well against Glasgow for some reason. For some reason the boys always pitch up and manage to get the win. I don’t think they like the way we play. They play a faster brand of rugby and we obviously try to slow it down and play our style of rugby. I don’t think they like that.”
They don’t. Glasgow would rather play Edinburgh at their own pacey brand of rugby, they prefer the unstructured stuff and tend to attack space rather than bodies, which is why they are so dangerous from turnovers.
Edinburgh’s go-slow tactics may not win them many new fans but they have proved mightily effective against Glasgow in recent years. The Edinburgh players never run when they can jog and never jog when they can walk. They prefer to spend as long as possible in set-piece play, their speciality, although the signs suggest they may not have everything their way on Saturday.
We can recite Edinburgh’s front five forwards like a nursery rhyme by now; Schoeman, McInally, Nel, Gilchrist and Toolis but Glasgow will have Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson returned to front row duty, after missing the middle of the season, and Scott Cummings has forced his way into the row alongside Jonny Gray.
In short Glasgow’s set scrum looked a different prospect to the one that was bullied in the opening two games and lost Oli Kebble to the sin bin in the second of them. Take away Edinburgh’s scrum dominance and it will be interesting to see what else they have left. Threats out wide for sure, in Darcy Graham and Van der Merwe who has eight league tries already this season, but Edinburgh may find themselves chasing the game at Scotstoun, rather than Glasgow.
“We’ve got a lot of fight in our squad. We have come back in previous games when we were down,” says Van der Merwe. “We were down at Scarlets but we came back when it was a must-win for us. This weekend is also a must-win for us. We’ve got the skills. We’ve got a good attacking system so I would back the boys, even if we are down, to get the win.
“In the last few games they (Glasgow) have been very good. They are a quality side. It is going to be a tough game, but no matter what we need to go out there full blast and give our all. A lot of stuff will depend on this game for the rest of our season. We really can’t afford to slip up. We have to go out there and win.”
The mathematical possibilities are almost infinite but the chances are that Edinburgh will need to match whatever haul of points the Scarlets manage against the Dragons, most likely a full house of five points. If that is true then Edinburgh will need to score four tries in one match against Glasgow when they managed just three in the two December derbies all told.
“We are obviously aware of the bonus point,” concedes Van der Merwe, “but we still need to be patient. We still need to stick to our system and the way we play. We’re not going to go out on Saturday and do something we haven’t done. Our system has been working for us. We know we need to get five points, we will just focus on three points, five points and see where we get.
“We just need to forget about it (the bonus point) and stick to the system. We all know that we need to go out and win, but at the same time we need to stick to our system, what we’ve been doing all season.”