Edinburgh’s South African wing Duhan van der Merwe has been named the PRO14 Players’ Player of the Season for the 2019-20 campaign.
Van der Merwe and his Edinburgh coach, Richard Cockerill, have earned the two most prestigious awards on offer in the PRO14, having been voted as the best player and coach by their peers for the 2019-20 season.
Van der Merwe won the Players’ Player of the Season gong, an award voted for by the captains and vice-captains of each team in the competition.
The 25-year-old was impressive all season, topping out the Opta stats charts for defenders beaten (76), metres made (906) and clean breaks (31) while also scoring seven tries and setting up two.
Additionally, Van der Merwe’s average of 5.6 defenders beaten per game set a new record in the PRO14, broking his own existing record of 5.3 that he set in 2017-18. Van der Merwe winning the accolade also ensures the award stays in the Scottish capital with teammate Bill Mata earning the award last season.
Commenting on his prestigious award, Van der Merwe said: ‘I feel hugely privileged to win this award. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I could achieve something this big and it’s a brilliant feeling knowing that it was voted by the guys I face in the PRO14 week in and week out.
‘Getting an award like this is massive for me and hopefully highlights that the hard work I’ve put in throughout my career is starting to pay off. I genuinely couldn’t have won this without the help of everyone at Edinburgh and I can’t wait to push the club further next season.’
Cockerill’s arrival in the Scottish capital has seen a resurgence within the club since 2017 when he led Edinburgh to its very first post-season appearance in the PRO14 knockout stages.
This season he went one better with Edinburgh winning Conference B and earning a home semi-final. Cockerill has also seen six of his current squad members named in the PRO14 Dream Team for the 2019-20 season and his side will next set their sights on European glory as they travel to Bordeaux-Begles in the Challenge Cup next week.
Cockerill says he didn’t expect to be named as the best coach in the competition.
‘I’m a little bit surprised, but I’m happy that it gives everybody recognition at Edinburgh.
‘We’ve worked hard in the last three years to build what we’re doing and while it’s always nice to be recognised for an individual award, it’s very much a team effort across the club from the coaching staff, medical team, strength and conditioning guys, that have all worked really hard to do what we’re doing.
‘We were obviously hugely disappointed not to reach this year’s PRO14 final, but we’re determined as ever to bounce back and drive the club forward in 2020-21.’
Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images