Duhan van der Merwe – The Lions’ own ‘Bok’ who grew up near Cape Town – vows to take the South African sledging in his stride as winger prepares to battle ‘best in the world’ Cheslin Kolbe
- Duhan van der Merwe insists he won’t let himself be affected by verbal abuse
- The 26-year-old wing insists he has nothing to prove to the South Africans
- Van der Merwe described Cheslin Kolbe as ‘one of the best in the world’
- The Lions star admits his friends and family will be supporting the Springboks
Having grown up a few hours’ drive from Cape Town, Duhan van der Merwe will be back in familiar surroundings on Saturday.
He played rugby with a handful of the Springboks as a schoolboy and even supported them during the World Cup final before opting to play for Scotland.
However, the giant wing is not expecting a friendly ‘welcome home’. Warren Gatland has warned him to prepare for a barrage of Afrikaans sledging.
Duhan van der Merwe (centre) played alongside some Springbok players as a school boy
Lions coach Warren Gatland has warned Van der Merwe to be prepared for relentless sledging
‘In any game you play, you’ll always get some verbal abuse,’ said Van der Merwe. ‘People getting stuck into you. I’m used to it. People can say what they want. I will just go out there and do my thing.’
So far on this tour, Van der Merwe has taken everything in his stride. He was even presented the team’s ‘Bobby Cup’ award by Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger. He has beaten defenders, scored tries and dealt with the limited defensive challenges that have been thrown his way.
But on Saturday he faces his toughest challenge yet. Van der Merwe will be tasked with marking the majestic Cheslin Kolbe. He said: ‘Cheslin is an amazing player, probably one of the best in the world at the moment. It is going to be a big challenge for me.
‘We are different players and I’m looking forward to that battle. I’ve never played against him. He has very good feet, he’s a quick guy and he throws his body around. His ability to beat boys one-on-one is amazing.
Van der Merwe described Cheslin Kolbe as ‘one of the best in the world’ and a ‘big challenge’
‘It’s just about staying on top of him and not giving him too much time on the ball. But when it’s my turn on the ball and I have my shot at him, he needs to defend me.’
Van der Merwe has been given freedom to roam. Gatland has ordered him to pop up around the pitch, moving off his wing to make the most of his ability by beating defenders with strength and speed. It is the perfect chance to show the South Africans what they missed out on.
But the 26-year-old insists he is not motivated by proving the doubters wrong. He said: ‘I’ve got nothing to prove. It’s been six years so I don’t have any sour grapes.
‘A few people are asking me how it feels and it’s a bit weird. My family and my mates are buzzing for me but a lot of them are obviously going to support the Springboks.
‘Normally when I come back, I’m on holiday. I haven’t had that this time as I know we’re here to do a job and win the series.’