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Lions wing Van Der Merwe blocks out social media messages questioning his place

The South Africa-born Scotland wing says the messages also motivate him.

Duhan van der Merwe at Murrayfield today.
Duhan van der Merwe at Murrayfield today.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

LIONS WING DUHAN van der Merwe says he is aiming to block out social media messages questioning his place in the Lions squad.

A South Africa native who qualified to play for Scotland via the residency rule, van der Merwe will return to his homeland with the Lions on Sunday as they fly out for their tour.

The 26-year-old, who starts against Japan tomorrow at Murrayfield, revealed today that his place in the Lions squad has been questioned online.

“I’m just going to ignore those kinds of bits,” said van der Merwe. “I’ve just been ignoring the stuff that people have been saying on social media and those bits. I know how I feel in my heart sitting here representing the Lions and that’s all that matters.

“You get the odd comment here and there about ‘He was born in South Africa, he shouldn’t be representing Scotland the Lions, he’s going back to South Africa and he shouldn’t be representing the Lions,’ all those kinds of bits.

“I don’t want to really go into detail about that, but I just put all that behind me and focus on what I can focus on.”

Asked if that kind of stuff motivates him ahead of the tour, van der Merwe gave a succinct answer.

“Yes, it does.”

duhan-van-der-merwe-with-huw-bennett-2562021 Van der Merwe claims a high ball. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Van der Merwe, who was capped by Scotland for the first time last year, will move from Edinburgh to English club Worcester Warriors ahead of next season.

The former South Africa Schools and South Africa U20 international spent a season with the Montpellier academy after leaving the Blue Bulls in 2016, then arrived at Edinburgh a year later.

He returns to his native South Africa a very different player to the one who left, but van der Merwe says he won’t waste any time trying to prove a point to those who didn’t back him before his departure.

“I obviously left quite early,” said van der Merwe. “I’m not going to go back and say, ‘Look, this is what I achieved as a player, so screw you guys’ – sorry to put it that way. I’m just focusing on myself and I’m buzzing to go back as a Lions player.

“If you asked me when I left South Africa if I ever thought I would represent the British and Irish Lions in South Africa, I would probably have said no.

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“All my friends are excited to watch the games live on TV and my family is backing me, which is the most important thing. They’re all behind me.”

Powerful wing van der Merwe is also hoping his inside knowledge might prove useful for the Lions over in South Africa.

“I obviously speak Afrikaans, so if I hear something on the field, I will feed it back to the boys, to be honest!”

But first, the Lions get their campaign underway against Japan tomorrow in front of 16,500 people at Murrayfield.

“It’s a massive opportunity for us, boys are buzzing,” said van der Merwe. “Our families are going to come up and watch the game, they haven’t been at a Test in a long time so that makes it very special for us as a team.”

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