WP Nel has his say on Duhan van der Merwe’s decision to leave Edinburgh

WP Nel will make his 150th appearance for Edinburgh on Friday if selected to play against Glasgow, testament to the longevity of the tighthead who has put roots down in the capital since arriving from South Africa in 2012.

Willem Nel helped Edinburgh to a 10-7 win over Glasgow Warriors at BT Murrayfield on Saturday. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Willem Nel helped Edinburgh to a 10-7 win over Glasgow Warriors at BT Murrayfield on Saturday. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

He says it will be a “proud moment”, particularly if the capital side can follow up last weekend’s win with another at Scotstoun.

Nel has been adopted by Scotland, having qualified to play for the national side in 2015 on residency grounds and going on to win 40 caps.

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He was one of the first of the pro-era South Africans to use this route into the national side and has been followed this season by Edinburgh team-mates Duhan van der Merwe and Jaco van der Walt and Glasgow’s Oli Kebble.

Edinburgh's Duhan van der Merwe will leave at the end of the season to join Worcester. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

The news that van der Merwe will leave Scottish rugby at the end of the season to join Worcester has prompted debate, with Grand Slam hero Craig Chalmers a notable critic of the winger’s decision to leave for England so soon after winning his first caps.

Unsurprisingly, Nel refuses to judge his compatriot.

“Listen, it’s a tough environment out there,” said the prop. “Everyone can make their own decisions. I’m happy that I’ve got my family here, but Duhan and his girlfriend are in a different situation.

“It’s not up to me to ask Duhan why he’s moving, it’s up to how the person feels. If he feels that the Premiership is the next step for him to become a better player then that’s what works best for him.”

At 25, van der Merwe is in his prime and probably at the peak of his earning potential. Nel is in the autumn of his career and the 34-year-old is unsure whether he will remain here when his playing days end.

“I won’t lie, this last year has been difficult,” he said. “You really miss your extended family, it’s not easy to be away from them. But then Scotland’s also done a lot for me and I’ve fallen in love with this place. My family’s happy, and the kids are starting in school now.

“Scotland’s all that they know, so it will come down to a family decision. I’m quite happy either way, although we’ll probably end up staying because my wife is very happy here.”

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