C’mon Rassie, give Edwill a run

Edwill van der Merwe of the Lions has scored five tries this season. | BackpagePix

Edwill van der Merwe of the Lions has scored five tries this season. | BackpagePix

Published May 21, 2024


Surely … Surely … Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus can make a space for Edwill van der Merwe when he whittles down his squad for the forthcoming international season in the coming weeks.

It was around the 51st minute in the Lions’ United Rugby Championship victory over the Glasgow Warriors that the incessant nagging regarding the 28-year-old – controlled for seasons by a ‘we will see what happens’ – emerged fully sprung from the mind and onto this tangible black and white medium.

Trailing 14-8, and deep in their half, the Lions’ Quan Horn pounced onto a loose ball, popping the pill to PJ Botha. The hooker flung it wide to Francke Horn, Van der Merwe almost immediately calling for possession out on the wing.

Francke – releasing the opportunity – obliged after a few steps forward, passing the ball right into the bread basket of Van der Merwe, who had already made up his mind as to what was required. He immediately accelerated, dropped the ball onto the boot with a perfectly weighted kick, the ball bouncing flawlessly back into his possession up-field

In a footrace to the tryline, he left everyone – teammates included – in his wake, beating the cover defence in No 13 Stafford McDowall easily as he dotted down between the sticks.


Now, admittedly, such opportunities are rare at Test level, but Van der Merwe’s try exhibited all of the talents the wing possesses: vision, decision-making, pace, soft skills and lethal finishing. He has strength, too.

A few seasons ago, against Munster at Ellis Park with limited space, running on the touchline, he bumped off the last defender to dive over the whitewash in the corner. He has done this on several occasions – making strong runs into the opposition without fear when his filthy goose-step cannot beat them.

He works hard off the ball in defence. I recall against Stade Francias in an EPCR Challenge Cup match last season in Johannesburg, how he dragged replacement Ferdinand Dreno, who had crossed the tryline, into touch in an almighty effort to deny the Pink Army.

Having interacted with the wing on a handful of occasions, there is a sense that he is also a consummate team man. Since joining the Lions in 2021, he has scored 25 tries in 54 appearances for the team at franchise level.


Currently, he is ranked 68th in the URC top 100 and as the fourth-best South African wing behind Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse of the Bulls, and teammate Richard Kriel in the competition. He is in the top 10 in that category, too.

Look, there can be no denying that Moodie and Arendse should nail down the wings going forward for the Boks, but Van der Merwe deserves a shout. Cheslin Kolbe also remains the high watermark for excellence out wide, while Makazola Mapimpi – as beloved as he is – has entered into the twilight of his illustrious career.

Van der Merwe has been consistently one of the Lions’ best players over the past few seasons, performing every weekend when called upon, and deserves a shot in the green and gold. This season affords a rare opportunity to do so when the Boks face Wales in June and Portugal a few weeks later in July.

Those matches are surely tailor-made to give Van der Merwe a run in national colours to see what he can do at that level.