Duhan van der Merwe’s achievements should be truly appreciated by South Africans, writes former Springbok STEFAN TERBLANCHE.
Lions! Lions! Lions!
Whether you love or hate that noise of thousands of British & Lions fans flooding our rugby stadiums across South Africa and supporting the famous touring team, I can guarantee you one thing … you will miss it this year.
Having said that, there will still be many fascinating facets to this tour, and I cannot wait until Warren Gatland shows his hand and unveils the Test team to take on the Boks.
We have already seen the havoc injuries can cause in tours like these, with experienced captain Alun Wyn Jones ruled out not even half an hour into the warm-up game against Japan, closely followed by his Welsh and Ospreys teammate, Justin Tupiric. Throw in the drama of Covid-19 cases daily and we should be in for an unsettled tour.
To digress momentarily, one thing that many rugby supporters still battle with is the fact that players move not only from franchise to franchise, but also from country to country. It’s part and parcel of professional sport, so I will say this: get used to it!
When Uli Schmidt moved from the Bulls to the Lions in the early 1990s it nearly caused a national emergency and the then minister of defence Roelf Meyer could have had his hands full in declaring Pretoria a state of disaster.
Since that day many more players followed the money and it’s now not unusual for players to play for more than one South African team in their careers and then add some overseas flavours to that list before hanging up their boots.
Bryan Habana and Duane Vermeulen are just two great examples of this.
This brings me back to the Lions of 2021 and one particular player many of us will keep an eye on during this tour. Many South African supporters already love to hate Van der Merwe and I can’t see this relationship improving over the course of the Lions tour as this man will score some tries, and he will have a huge impact on the outcome of the final tour results.
I first saw this big, young wing playing for Outeniqua High School in George in 2013 and have been watching him ever since. It’s always sad to see young South Africans leave our shores, whether it’s for sport or to find work abroad.
I have always been a great supporter for this move, hoping these kids would come back one day and plough all that experience back into our beautiful country.
These days many of these youngsters adopt another country like their own, and again, I can’t say I can blame and judge them for it. In the same breath you have to tip your hat to them and congratulate them on making such a huge success in such a defining career change.
Duhan is one of these youngsters who nearly gave up his dream of playing professional rugby before deciding to make the move across our borders and further north.
It’s a move I respect and embrace because it developed this young South African into a world-class wing who is on the brink of playing against his once-beloved Springboks in a Lions Test match series – something that would never have happened if he stayed in South Africa.
That, my friends, is what dreams are made of and what rugby – the best sport on our planet – gives you.
Watch this young man, and appreciate his sacrifices, talent and his deepest fears and demons when he faces his fellow countrymen.
I can’t wait!