DUHAN VAN DER MERWE admits re-signing with Edinburgh was an easy decision, particularly given the support the club showed him when he initially signed for Richard Cockerill’s team.

When the South African winger made the trip to Edinburgh from Montpellier in 2017, where he had spent the previous season, he had his hopes pinned on making a new start. A year in France, without being able to speak much French, had not been much fun and so Van der Merwe was keen for a move.

But when he failed his medical at Edinburgh due to a crocked hip, it seemed like his dreams had been dashed and he admits the thought crossed his mind that his rugby career was over.

“I was struggling with my hip for about 14 months," the 24-year-old recalled.

“I came over, did a medical and said ‘there’s something wrong with my hip, I don’t know what it is’. I went to see the doctors and failed my medical. I thought oh no.

“When I failed my medical, I was a bit concerned, I thought where to next, what now?

“When I look back, it could have gone really badly. If I failed my medical and Cockers didn’t back me, that was probably me (finished) because I didn’t have many options back then. Who was going to fix my hip, where was I going to get rehab and all of that? So I’m really grateful they backed me back then.”

Van der Merwe has transformed himself from an unknown into one of the best wingers in Europe this season. In his 53 games for Edinburgh in two-and-a-half years, he has scored 28 tries, putting him fifth in the all-time list for the club. And while it is his try-scoring that catches the eye, Van der Merwe believes he has been transformed as a player over the past couple of years, which is why he was so keen to extend his stay.

“I’ve developed my career here at Edinburgh and I want to keep developing as a player so it was easy for me to decide to stay here,” he said, before listing the things he has improved upon.

“(I have) more options without the ball, running lines, passing definitely, high ball catching, defence and just getting involved in the game.

“I used to just stand on the wing and if I didn’t get the ball, I’d walk off the field and say they didn’t pass to me. Whereas now, I actually work and try to get the ball. I’ve still got bits of my game I need to develop but I’m a much different player than I was when I arrived. I’m a lot more confident in the things I do.”

Van der Merwe becomes eligible to play for the Scottish national team in June, and the prospect of international rugby was, he admits, very enticing, particularly with a tour to South Africa on the horizon this summer.

“I want to play international rugby and if the opportunity is there to play, I’d want to grab it with both hands and give it a shot and see where I’m at,” he said.

“That’d be really cool, playing against South Africa. If I get the opportunity, I’d love that.”

Head coach Cockerill has overseen Edinburgh becoming a very impressive outfit this season and he admits that, as he continue to build a squad that is full of strength-in-depth, capturing the signature of Van der Merwe when there was, understandably, interest from elsewhere.

“He’s got a unique skill set, he’s very quick and finishes well so I’m delighted that he’s resigned, keeping our squad together and keep building what we’ve got here,” said the Englishman.

“Obviously he’d be in demand in other places. I’m delighted he sees his future here – and hopefully that will include national involvement at some point.

“We keep building a strong environment where, hopefully, people want to stay.”

Edinburgh face Agen in the Challenge Cup this weekend in a game which, if they win, will see them progress to the quarter-finals. And it is having a match-winner like Van der Merwe in the squad that can make all the difference in these vitally important games.

“Duhan has the big difference – he can have the ball 70 metres from the line and, if he gets and opportunity, he’s going to take it,” said Cockerill.

“He has pure pace, his footwork, his power, he’s scored tries from nothing. Having a player like him in your squad is important because he can make the difference, spark the game into life or turn the game in your favour.

“It’s important to keep those types of players.”