Edinburgh pin hopes on Duhan van der Merwe against Cheetahs
Edinburgh Rugby head coach Richard Cockerill is expecting big things from fit-again winger Duhan van der Merwe as he prepares to make his long-awaited debut for the club this evening away to the Cheetahs (5.30pm GMT).
The Capital men are in South Africa for a fortnight, playing today and then facing the Southern Kings next weekend, and Cockerill wants the team to keep their good run of form going as the league resumes after a break.
Key to any away-day glory for the team missing a number of Scotland players in Bloemfontein will be 22-year-old South African Van der Merwe.
He arrived in the summer from French club Montpelier with a hip problem and had surgery, but has been training for the last four weeks and is fit to play.
“He is quick and powerful, a direct runner and a big man with a lot of talent,” Cockerill said about Van der Merwe. “Duhan is aggressive with and without the ball so it is exciting to have him available.
“We know this will be a very tough test, we are missing guys and the Cheetahs have been going well at home, but the likes of Neil Cochrane, Nathan Fowles and Magnus Bradbury have flown out late to join us after Scotland duties and that helps.”
In the starting XV, Murray McCallum gets a first start of the season at tighthead prop while two young players, Lewis Carmichael and Luke Crosbie, are given the nod to play in the back-row. Callum Hunter-Hill and Jaco van der Walt could make Edinburgh debuts from the bench.
Cockerill says that star summer signing Robbie Fruean is not available due to a virus, but it is not thought to be connected to his previous heart problems.
“He has not been feeling very well and has had some sickness and is just not fit to play,” the head coach said of the 29-year-old.
“At the moment we are just trying to get to the bottom of it.”
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn; Dougie Fife, James Johnstone, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Jason Tovey, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Michele Rizzo, Neil Cochrane, Murray McCallum, Anton Bresler, Fraser McKenzie (C), Lewis Carmichael, Luke Crosbie, Viliame Mata. Subs: Cameron Fenton, Rory Sutherland, Kevin Bryce, Callum Hunter-Hill, Magnus Bradbury, Nathan Fowles, Jaco van der Walt, Junior Rasolea.