Duhan van der Merwe’s powerful tour debut for the British & Irish Lions raised questions around whether the SA-born finisher was good enough to start for the Springboks. Interestingly, a SA Rugby magazine reader poll delivered telling results.
Van der Merwe has scored eight tries in 10 Tests for Scotland since making his debut in 2020 and he is consequently not eligible to represent South Africa. The 26-year-old scored a hat-trick against the Sharks at Ellis Park in the second match of the 2021 tour and this fuelled speculation that the supersized finisher is ‘one that got away,’ an enormous talent that should have been retained in South Africa’s rugby system.
The poll asked readers to vote on whether they would choose Van der Merwe to start for the Springboks in this series, in a hypothetical situation where he was eligible, and if so, which of Cheslin Kolbe or Makazole Mapimpi – the heroes of South Africa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup success -he would replace.
Surprisingly, only 57 percent of respondents voted No to the hypothetical change on the wing. And of the 43 percent who were in favour of the change, 95 percent of them elected to promote Van der Merwe at the expense of Mapimpi.