Humble Edwill hungry for more Bok glory

Edwill van der Merwe celebrated his Springbok debut with a try and victory over Wales this past weekend. | AFP

Edwill van der Merwe celebrated his Springbok debut with a try and victory over Wales this past weekend. | AFP

Published Jun 24, 2024


Leighton Koopman

For some players, a Test debut will bring plenty of nerves, but new Springbok Edwill van der Merwe was happy to take in the moment with little nervousness as he capped his performance with a brilliant try.

The Lions winger had a long journey to becoming an international player, leaving Cape Town for Joburg for a better playing opportunity, and on Saturday he grabbed the chance in the Green and Gold with both hands to kickstart his journey with the world champions.

Coach Rassie Erasmus was pleased with the winger’s performance and said the fact that he comes in as a 28-year-old debutant probably aided him in understanding the setup quicker than others would have.

South Africa's wing Edwill van der Merwe runs to score a try during the Summer Series international rugby union match between South Africa and Wales at Twickenham Stadium, London, on Saturday. (Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP)

Van der Merwe played a crucial role in the 41-13 victory, making two early try-saving tackles when Wales looked to get the upper hand when the Boks were under pressure. His breakthrough try also took the game away from their opponents at Twickenham.

“It was incredible and humbling to make my debut for the Springboks and scoring in my first Test,” Van der Merwe said.

“The way we prepared the last couple of weeks just gave me confidence in the system, and I could just be myself. There was no real nervousness, I could just go out and be Edwill. I think the guys around me, Jesse (Kriel) and Mapimps (Makazole Mapimpi), gave me a lot of confidence. They always chatted to me, and it made my job easy. It was a memorable first game for South Africa, and hopefully not the last one.”

About that try, he said he called Grant Williams (the scrumhalf) for the little ball over his shoulder and the rest is history. Van der Merwe joined an elite bunch of players scoring for the Boks on debut.

“I could not believe my eyes when I went through and (while) crossing the try line, I was overcome with emotion. I took a moment to take it all in, it was incredibly special.”

Another special milestone was the 50th cap of stalwart tighthead Vincent Koch, who alongside fellow prop Ox Nche, caused the Welsh problems in the scrums.

He said the win in his 50th match made the occasion even more special.

“It’s a dream that came true. These opportunities don’t come along every day. The boys showed unbelievable character and effort to win the game, so I’m very proud.

“It wasn’t perfect, but there are glimpses of good things and we can really build on that. The young guys putting up their hands is a really good sign for South African rugby. We are looking forward to the Irish Tests.”