SA's star that got away is Pro14's best
NEWS: Edinburgh duo Duhan van der Merwe and Richard Cockerill have earned the two most prestigious awards on offer in the Pro14 having been voted in as the best player and coach by their peers for the 2019/20 season.
Powerhouse South African-born wing Van der Merwe, who is also Scotland qualified and looks set to get his call-up for the year-end series, has won the Players’ Player of the season, an award voted for by the captains and vice-captains at each team in the Championship. The 25-year-old has impressed all season topping out the Opta stats charts for defenders beaten (76), metres made (906) and clean breaks (31) while scoring seven tries and setting up two.
Additionally, Van der Merwe’s average of 5.6 defenders beaten per game set a new record for the Pro14 as he broke his own existing record of 5.3 that he set in 2017/18. Van der Merwe also ensures the award stays in the Scottish capital with teammate Bill Mata earning the accolade last season.
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, 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 Rugby and I can’t wait to push the club further next season.”
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𝘿𝙊𝙐𝘽𝙇𝙀 𝘼𝘾𝙏! 🏆
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) September 10, 2020
Cockerill’s arrival at Edinburgh has seen a resurgence within the club since 2017 when he led the Scottish side to their very first knock-out appearance in the Pro14 knock-out stages. This season he went one better with Edinburgh winning Conference B and earning a home semifinal. Cockerill has also seen six of his current squad 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 said: “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.”
Pro14 2020 Winners:
Players’ Player of the Season: Duhan van der Merwe | Edinburgh
Pro14 Coach of the Season: Richard Cockerill | Edinburgh
Next-Gen Star of the Season: Caelan Doris | Leinster
Golden Boot: JJ Hanrahan | Munster
Tackle Machine: Paul Boyle | Connacht
Turnover King: Josh MacLeod | Scarlets
Pro14 Top Try-scorer: Rhyno Smith | Cheetahs
Pro14 Ironman: Matthew Screech | Dragons