Speaking to the media, Forwards Coach Stevie Lawrie hailed the winger’s early impact, with Van der Merwe in contention for his ‘second debut’ this coming weekend.
“Duhan’s looking magic,” said Lawrie. “The boys are energised to have him and we’ve already had some comedy moments from him in a couple of meetings.
“He’s been referencing his super strength! he’s brought a bit of energy and a bit of fun.
“It’s great to have Duhan back in with the group. It creates a lot of competition within the back three but also, he brings his own energy and his own vibe. The boys really like him. I’m excited for him to be in the mix for selection this week.”
Van der Merwe re-joins a team with a different playing style than he was perhaps used to under the previous regime.
With a new fast track at DAM Health Stadium, the winger will slot into a backline who’ve enjoyed playing with creativity and freedom, instilled by Head Coach Mike Blair.
“He played for Cockers here before, went to Worcester to play for Steve Diamond and now he’s back here to play for Mike. And he played for Mike before at Scotland.
“But I see Duhan slotting in just fine. I think he’ll enjoy the shapes that we’re running and how we can get him on the ball. He’s a devastating runner.
“At Worcester he was one of the top line-breaking wingers in world rugby. His stats are very impressive. I think he’ll go well under Mike and Mike will enjoy thinking of ways to get him on the ball.”
Van der Merwe returns to a positional group that is perhaps the most competitive in the playing group.
Winger Darcy Graham has already ran in six tries in four matches while Argentine international Emiliano Boffelli has returned to the capital XV following a hugely successful Rugby Championship campaign with Los Pumas.
“How good was the wee man [Darcy] at the weekend? “continued Lawrie.
“He could beat a man in a phone box. He was brilliant. He’s on form just now. And there’s quite a nice balance there in terms of individuals.
“Whoever’s in the back three knows they need to perform. And from a coach’s perspective that’s a positive place to be.”
Van der Merwe’s return brings an added boost to the squad as the capital side gear up for Saturday night’s Scottish x Italian Shield conference match-up with Benetton.
Having been edged out by Emirates Lions on Friday night, Edinburgh will be keen to return to winning ways at DAM Health Stadium where they’ve only lost two league fixtures since moving in last season.
“I think we’ve played some tough teams, for sure, but we’ve also reflected on how ruthless we can be. Mike’s spoken about it – what we’re controlling, and how we’re going to get ourselves over the line in these tight games.
“Because we had opportunities to win that game at the weekend, probably similar to Bulls away, and we’ve just fallen short. That’s the straightforward fact.
“We’re probably looking around our contact area and how physical we can be when we’re actually in the opposition finish zone, inside their 22 – how we can be more efficient or more ruthless.
“Last year, Scarlets first game of the season was one that could have gone either way. We were on the right side of that result, now we’ve found ourselves on the wrong side of a couple of results.
“So it’s important this weekend against Benetton that we play with the confidence and belief that’s in the group, but that we’re also just physical, and able to play on top of them when we get into their 22.
“We conceded a number of turnovers, not through overplaying – it was more things like getting stripped or going off our feet – things that we feel were in control of that didn’t quite click at the weekend. So we’ve got a real laser focus on that this week.”
Squad Update | Munster Prepare For Bayonne At Thomond
The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup opener against Bayonne at Thomond Park (5.30pm).
Buy match tickets here.
Jean Kleyn will be unavailable until the New Year due to an eye injury suffered in the Leinster match. He attended for a specialist review last Tuesday and Wednesday and will have further follow-up before Christmas.
Jack Daly (ankle) and Liam Coombes (shoulder) both underwent surgery last week and will begin rehabilitation under the medical department.
There is good news for Patrick Campbell (ankle) as he has returned to team training.
Jack O’Donoghue (ankle) will also return to training this week.
Simon Zebo (knee) will continue to rehabilitate early this week.
The availability of Campbell, O’Donoghue and Zebo will be determined later in the week.
Peter O’Mahony (shoulder) is improving but will remain unavailable for the Bayonne clash.
Continuing to rehab: Jack Daly (ankle), Peter O’Mahony (shoulder), Liam Coombes (shoulder), RG Snyman (chest/shoulder), Joey Carbery (wrist), Roman Salanoa (knee), Mike Haley (hip), Cian Hurley (ankle/achilles), Niall Scannell (groin).
There were 11 Munster players in AIL action for their clubs at the weekend.
In Division 1A, Fionn Gibbons, Chris Moore and Keynan Knox helped Young Munster to a win over City of Armagh with Gibbons among the tries.
Ethan Coughlan and Daniel Okeke were in action for Shannon as they were beaten away to Terenure College.
In Division 1B, Jack Oliver, George Hadden and Colm Hogan helped Garryowen beat Blackrock College with Hogan scoring a try on his debut for the club. Oliver also kicked three conversions and two penalties.
Jack O’Sullivan and Ben O’Connor featured for UCC as they were narrowly beaten by Old Wesley.
In Evan O’Connell helped UL Bohemians to a draw against MU Barnhall.
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Peter O’Mahony Steps Down After Over 10 Years As Munster Captain
Munster Rugby can confirm that Peter O’Mahony has made the decision to step down as squad captain after over 10 years leading the province.
O’Mahony first captained Munster in a competitive game on September 3, 2011 at the age of 21. It was just his 12th appearance for the province and he led the side for the opening five games of that season.
He took over the Munster captaincy on a permanent basis ahead of the 2013/14 season following the departure of Doug Howlett.
The 2022/23 season was O’Mahony’s 10th year as squad captain and ended with glory in Cape Town as he lifted the URC title with Keith Earls after a thrilling win over the Stormers.
Along with captaining Munster, he has also led Ireland and the British & Irish Lions.
Head Coach Graham Rowntree and the coaching team will select a new squad captain in due course.
Peter O’Mahony said: “Captaining Munster has been a dream come true for me.
“I grew up watching and idolising the Munster team and in particular the people who were leading the team.
“People like Mick Galwey, Jim Williams then on to the likes of ROG and Paul, who I had the privilege of playing with at the start of my career.
“I can remember the day I was asked to be captain like it was yesterday and discussing it with Paul to get his approval.
“From that day to this it’s been an utter privilege and has never been something I’ve taken for granted.
“However, having given a huge amount of thought to it, I think it is the right time to step back from the role to share my experiences and give the same guidance that I received when I took on the role.
“What an unbelievable honour it has been…and will always continue to be.”
Paying tribute to O’Mahony’s over 10 years as captain, Rowntree said: “You couldn’t pick a better leader than Pete and he has been a fantastic captain for this club.
“To lead Munster from such a young age and for so many years speaks volumes of his ability as a player on the pitch and a person off it.
“He commands huge respect and will still be a massive leader within the group. To have someone of Pete’s experience on hand to help us with the succession process is invaluable.
“We have a strong leadership group within the squad and will confirm a new squad captain in due course.”
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Squad Update | Munster Prepare For Leinster In Dublin
The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Saturday’s URC round 6 clash against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium (6.30pm, live on TG4).
Our next home game is against Glasgow Warriors at Musgrave Park on Friday, December 1 (7.35pm). Buy match tickets here.
Following Saturday’s win over Stormers, Peter O’Mahony (shoulder) and Jack O’Donoghue (ankle) will both go for scans on their respective injuries.
Diarmuid Barron has progressed through the return to play protocols and will be available for selection.
Continuing to rehab: Liam Coombes (shoulder), RG Snyman (chest/shoulder), Joey Carbery (wrist), Patrick Campbell (ankle), Roman Salanoa (knee), Mike Haley (hip), Cian Hurley (ankle/achilles), Niall Scannell (groin).
On the AIL front, there were nine Munster players in action for their clubs at the weekend.
In Division 1A, Keynan Knox and Fionn Gibbons helped Young Munster to a win over Terenure College at Tom Clifford Park.
Ethan Coughlan and Daniel Okeke were in action for Shannon as they were beaten by Lansdowne in Dublin.
In Division 1B, Jack Oliver and George Hadden lined out for Garryowen as they were beaten by St Mary’s College with Oliver kicking a conversion and a penalty.
Jack O’Sullivan was a try-scorer for UCC with Ben O’Connor also starting as they beat Queen’s University at the Mardyke.
In Division 1B, Evan O’Connell helped UL Bohemian to a 16-12 victory over Ballymena at Annacotty.
URC Round 7: Friday, December 1
Munster v Glasgow Warriors, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here
Champions Cup Round 1: Saturday, December 9
Munster Rugby v Bayonne, Thomond Park, 5.30pm; Buy tickets here
URC Round 8: Tuesday, December 26
Munster v Leinster, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here
Champions Cup Round 4: Saturday, January 20
Munster Rugby v Northampton Saints, Thomond Park, 5.30pm; Buy tickets here
Saturday, February 3
Munster Rugby v Crusaders, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 5pm; Buy final tickets here
URC Round 11: Friday, March 1
Munster v Zebre Parma, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here
URC Round 13: Saturday, March 30
Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here
URC Round 16: Saturday, May 11
Munster v Connacht, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here
URC Round 18: Saturday, June 1
Munster v Ulster, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here
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