Once A Warrior 2020 part 3: DTH

DTH van der Merwe

Warrior number – 177

Appearances – 123
Tries – 54

Debut – Cardiff Blues at Cardiff City Stadium, 3rd October 2009
Last game – Zebre at Scotstoun, 14th February 2020

The greatest try scorer in Glasgow Warriors’ history (54 tries). The greatest try scorer in Canada’s history (38 tries). A man who has crossed the whitewash more than 100 times in his career (so far). DTH van der Merwe always seemed to pop up with important scores at important times and he has set the standards that other wingers will be judged by when they pitch up at Scotstoun.

Before the current pandemic affected campaign he had played ten seasons in the PRO12/14 with Glasgow and the Scarlets, making the playoffs in eight of them – including four finals. While he missed the 2014 Grand Final through injury, he notched tries in the league’s showpiece fixture in both 2015 (with Glasgow) and 2017 (with Scarlets). A DTH score was usually a good sign for the Warriors – they won 79% of their games when the Canadian winger crossed.

The genesis of DTH’s Glasgow career suggests some things are just meant to be. The future Centurion and Warriors’ club legend was on track to potentially becoming a Saracens player before a long-term injury put him out of the game for 15 months. When he was fit to return it was as one of Sean Lineen’s signings for the 2009/10 season.

It took DTH a little bit of time to settle into life at Glasgow. Three months went by without getting on the scoresheet (granted these were the days when the Warriors averaged less than 2 tries per game rather than racking up bonus points with remarkable consistency). As fixtures go for breaking his duck as a Glasgow player an 1872 Cup match against Edinburgh at Murrayfield wasn’t too shabby at all. Having crossed early on in the game the yellow card that followed minutes later rather blotted his copybook though! He was hyped though and desperate to push Glasgow on to a much needed win against their old rivals.

(Incidentally, an extremely dodgy card against the Dragons later in 2010 was DTH’s only other brush with the sin bin during his Glasgow career, although he never stinted with his commitment to getting stuck in when required!)

After the club’s post Dan Parks et al transition season in 2010/11, DTH then had the misfortune to miss almost all of the 2011/12 campaign through injury. A near twelve month absence from a Glasgow shirt was no obstacle though. When he returned to action it was with tries straight off the bat in both of the club’s final two games of the regular season. His powerful break and finish to essentially win the game late on against Treviso was a huge moment in securing a playoff place for the Warriors.

2015 was arguably the very best year for DTH even in a career filled with peaks. He’d started the 2014/15 season in flying form with eight tries from 15 starts, helping to propel Glasgow to the very top of the PRO12 table. Injury intervened though and having missed the last three rounds his participation in the playoffs was in doubt. Sporting a cast on his wrist he was sprung from the bench against Ulster in the semi-final to score what must surely rank as the single most important try in the club’s history.

He followed that up not just with another significant score in the Grand Final but a sequence that extended to bagging tries in 8 consecutive competitive matches. These were not just any old fixtures either. They included the playoff semi-final, final, four RWC pool matches and his first two fixtures for his new side Scarlets – both against Irish heavyweights:

  • Ulster at Scotstoun 22/5/15 (playoff semi-final)
  • Munster at the Kingpsan Stadium 30/5/15 (playoff final)
  • Ireland at the Millennium Stadium 19/9/15 (RWC 2015)
  • Italy at Elland Road 26/9/15 (RWC 2015)
  • France at Stadium MK 1/10/15 (RWC 2015)
  • Romania at Leicester City Stadium 6/10/15 (RWC 2015)
  • Leinster at Parc Y Scarlets 16/10/15 (a double on his club debut debut)
  • Munster at Parc Y Scarlets 23/10/15

With 96 appearances already on the board at the time he left Glasgow in 2015, DTH was so very close to becoming a Warrior Centurion. When he became the fifth player who had previous history with the club signed by Dave Rennie (following in the footsteps of Ruaridh Jackson, Niko Matwalu, Kiran McDonald and Ryan Grant) DTH quickly demonstrated he still had the killer instinct with try doubles against both Zebre and Edinburgh at the tail end of the 2017/18 campaign, with that brace against the latter marking in style his 100th game for Glasgow.

Injuries and international duty limited his appearances somewhat during his second spell with the club but even in his thirties DTH still had the ability to beat a man and that combination of footwork, strength and sheer bloody-mindedness that made him exceptionally hard to put down. He also continued to rack up tries, becoming the first Warrior to notch a half century of scores and extending his club record to 54 in what would turn out to be his final game for Glasgow when they played Zebre at Scotstoun in February.

It was a rather mundane fixture to go out on. Not the playoffs and finals he’s been so used to experiencing in his club career. It feels like there is unfinished business in terms of a send off for the man who scored so many (and such important) tries for Glasgow. There are an awful lot of thank yous owed to Daniel Tailliferre Hauman van der Merwe. Hopefully the Warriors’ faithful will get their chance to pay tribute to the man himself in person at some point in the not too distant future.

Moving to – unconfirmed but DTH has said it’s likely to be a Major League Rugby side in the US (possibly San Diego Legion?)

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