Duhan van der Merwe backed to make step up with Scotland
Duncan Hodge has backed Duhan van der Merwe to make the step up to international rugby if he is called into the Scotland set-up next week.
National coach Gregor Townsend is due to announce his squad on Monday ahead of a busy autumn programme which includes an outstanding Six Nations match against Wales and the new Nations Cup competition.
It is expected that South African-born Van der Merwe will be included after the Edinburgh winger became Scottish qualified by fulfilling the three-year residency criterion.
Hodge, the Edinburgh attack coach, believes the muscular van der Merwe can transfer his skills on to the bigger stage after a stellar club season which saw him voted Guinness Pro14 player of the year.
“He has progressed so much from the raw, fast kid we saw three years ago,” said Hodge who welcomes the winger back into the Edinburgh side for Saturday night’s match at Munster.
“He has developed his game. He can make something out of nothing and it is a big boost to have him back.”
Van der Merwe missed last weekend’s season opener against Ospreys when Edinburgh went down rather tamely at BT Murrayfield. But he has recovered from injury and replaces Jamie Farndale in the XV for Limerick.
Hodge, capped 26 times by Scotland and the hero of the 2000 Calcutta Cup triumph, acknowledges that the international game represents a significant leap in quality but is confident van der Merwe can bridge the gap.
“You look at the tries he has scored and some of the things he has done and he is up there with any wingers in our league,” said Hodge.
“As I would always say to people who ask me, it is a big jump. International rugby is a different beast. [But] he is that good he will slip in fine.
“There won’t be any physical issues, we are quite clear on that, but it is a different game. Tactically it is different playing against some of the best players in the world. As an example, you have Johnny Sexton playing against Duhan. He will know him inside out in terms of his positioning, defence.
“I think he will be absolutely fine and I am sure he will do well if he is picked, but it is a jump up in standard.”
Hodge’s immediate focus is on the match with Munster and Edinburgh are further bolstered by the return of Jamie Ritchie at blindside after the Scotland flanker had to sit out the Ospreys game after coming into contact with a family member who was self-isolating. Ritchie replaces Magnus Bradbury who was concussed last week.
George Taylor comes in at centre for Chris Dean and Nic Groom starts at stand-off in place of the injured Charlie Shiel
There are two changes to the front row, with Scotland props Rory Sutherland and WP Nel starting ahead of Simon Berghan and Pierre Schoeman who both drop to the bench. Hamish Watson replaces Luke Crosbie at openside.
"We were not up to it last week and Munster is a tough place to go,” added Hodge. “It will be a tough battle up front against them, always is. We are under no illusions what is coming to us but we are excited about going over there and giving it our best shot.”
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