Akker van der Merwe says he understands the reasoning behind his omission from the Springboks’ end-of-year tour squad. DYLAN JACK reports.
Van der Merwe has been nominated for the Best off the Bench award in the BrightRock Players Choice Awards. He faces competition from Lions flank Marnus Schoeman, Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff and Blitzbok forward Zain Davids.
The players, under the banner of the South African rugby players organisation MyPlayers, created the awards in 2017. Except for the Fans’ Choice category, players vote for the winners in all categories. The winners will be announced next Tuesday at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.
Van der Merwe made his Test debut in the season-opening clash against Wales in June, and played two Tests off the bench in the series against England. However, after showing good form for the Sharks in their successful Currie Cup campaign, he was controversially left out of the Bok squad.
The 27-year-old hooker told SARugbymag.co.za that he understands why Rassie Erasmus opted for the experienced Schalk Brits instead.
‘At the end of the day I just have to give my best and if it is good enough I will get a place, and if it is not then I have to work a little bit harder,’ Van der Merwe said.
‘I would have loved to tour, but I understand what Schalk is doing for the team. I will never stop giving everything and working hard to be where I want to be. It does not help if I get angry at anyone. As soon as you get negative, everything is a downward spiral.’
Van der Merwe added that claiming the Currie Cup could lay the platform for the Sharks to launch a successful Super Rugby title challenge next year.
‘It was amazing. That was my first Currie Cup win so that makes it special. To win against Province at Newlands was just so much more special. We got a thumping from them in the league stage, so that made it a lot better.
‘It makes a big difference. A lot of the guys, in my view, did not have as much belief, but now the guys have got this self-belief that we can actually do this. I think that was an amazing thing, especially for the younger guys. If we can take that momentum and belief into Super Rugby it will make the world of difference.
‘The most important thing is to make sure that we keep our feet on the ground and just stay humble. You can easily fall away and lose that momentum if you don’t.’
Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP