Bryan Habana laments loss of Duhan van der Merwe to South Africa rugby

Bryan Habana laments loss of Duhan van der Merwe to South Africa rugby

Bryan Habana insisted that the Springboks' loss was very much Scotland's gain as he heaped praise on the talents of gargantuan wing Duhan van der Merwe.

The powerhouse back was an obvious talent who played for South Africa's age-grade sides, but he decided to leave the country early on his professional career.

He joined Montpellier in 2016 but, when that didn't work out, Van der Merwe signed for Edinburgh a year later and duly qualified for Scotland on residency in 2020.

The 28-year-old has since become a vital part of Gregor Townsend's squad, arguably turning into one of the world's best wings, and will be crucial for them at the Rugby World Cup.

"From a South African perspective, the first thing that comes to mind is ˜the one that got away'," Habana told World Rugby's YouTube channel.

"If you look at Duhan's playing style, firstly he's got an incredible work rate and he is used very much as a ball carrier.

"He does do incredibly well to run off Finn Russell's shoulders quite a bit and that sees him get into a lot of space."

Van der Merwe has produced a number of standouts moments in a blue shirt, including his stunning try against England earlier this year.

"One of the most incredible tries I've seen scored was by Duhan van der Merwe in this year's Six Nations against England," Habana added.

"He got the ball on the halfway line and really there was nothing on, but he beat defender after defender and ran a blistering 55 metres to score a try which will be, at the very least, close to try of the year."

Former England wing Chris Ashton played alongside Van der Merwe at Worcester Warriors and was always impressed by what he saw.

"If you were going to draw a rugby player, you would probably draw Duhan," Ashton said.

"I played with him for a short period of time, he is exactly what he says on the tin. Duhan is someone that wants to run over people and wants to run through people.

"He can run around people too but if he's presented with a challenge he will try and run through people first."

Many teams over the past few years have been on the receiving end of Van der Merwe's sheer power, including Wales, and their legendary wing Shane Williams watched on as he destroyed Warren Gatland's men in the Six Nations.

He starred as the Scots earned a 35-7 triumph over the Welsh at Murrayfield in February, running for over 100 metres in the contest.

"This guy's a monster, he's a specimen, he's an athlete," Williams said. "He's a good looking guy with his blonde flowing hair, he's got it all hasn't he? But he can play some footy as well."