The Finisher

The Finisher

It’s become a familiar sight over the years.

Maybe it’s a
free-flowing team move, the ball passing through several pairs of hands as the
Warrior Nation excitedly roar their side upfield. Perhaps it’s a kick hanging
in the air, the crowd falling almost silent as they wait with bated breath. Yet
when the ball reaches the hands of DTH van der Merwe, it’s usually followed by
a blast of the whistle from the referee as his latest try in Glasgow colours is

something I really enjoy!” laughs the Canadian flyer.

“Being able
to score tries is probably the aspect of the game that excites me the most.
It’s what wingers are meant to do – converting the hard work of the team into
tries is something that I’m happy to do.

accolades and having a good strike-rate are great, but it’s the work of my
team-mates that makes my job easier.”

Calling his
own strike-rate “good” is a modest understatement on the part of van der Merwe.
With a club-record 54 tries from his 123 appearances in a Glasgow shirt to date
– roughly a try every two outings – seeing the winger sit clear at the top of
the all-time charts, a chance encounter in the Middle East has paid handsome
dividends for the Warriors.

“I was at
the 2009 7s World Cup in Dubai where we played against Scotland, and
[then-Glasgow head coach] Sean Lineen was watching the game,” explained van der

“When I
joined, guys like Pete Horne, Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro and Rob Harley were all
just young guys coming through. We all went from young professionals and worked
our way up together, and it was great to go through the system with those guys.
You then started to see the benefits of it – we started to win more games,
winning away from home, reaching semi-finals and finals.”

By the time
2014/15 came around, the Warriors had morphed into a playoff powerhouse. After
defeat to Leinster at the RDS in the 2014 Final, there was little doubt when it
came to the club’s goal for the following season.

morning meeting on a Monday, there was a picture of Leinster celebrating from
the final the year before on the projector,” explained van der Merwe.

those guys celebrating really drove it home that we wanted to be the first
Scottish side to win the league.

“That year
was the first time we went out and spoke about it; no-one was shy about it, we
weren’t trying to be arrogant, that was just our goal.

“If we were
down at any point over the course of that season, there was never a doubt in my
mind that we would win. Every single game we played, I knew that we’d come back
and win it. That was the mindset the whole season.”

Despite a
fractured hand doing its best to de-rail van der Merwe’s pursuit of glory
alongside his team-mates, there would be no denying the winger his moment in
the spotlight. Not content with scoring arguably the most iconic try in club
history in the semi-final win over Ulster, the flyer crossed the whitewash once
more as Glasgow romped to a first-ever Guinness PRO12 title in Belfast.

“I’d worked
hard to get back onto the bench for the semi-final, and was lucky enough to
catch that dream of a pass from Finn [Russell] and score,” smiled van der

“It was a
nerve-wracking game, but it’s one of the most special moments I’ve ever had in
a Glasgow shirt. The skies after that game were beautiful, the atmosphere was
incredible and emotions were definitely running high after the game.

[Townsend] then named me in the starting XV for the final, and with a bit of
Fijian magic from Leone [Nakarawa] I got over in the corner.

“Leone had
actually been told by Gregor pre-match “don’t offload, this is finals rugby so
let’s keep the ball” – he then went and played the game of his life and created
two tries in the opening 20 minutes with offloads! He played his game and we
followed suit. In the changing room after the match, Gregor thanked Leone for
not listening to him!

“I actually
watched the final back not too long ago, and the memories just came flooding

A two-year
stint at the Scarlets – which included a second Guinness PRO12 title – and a
short spell at Newcastle Falcons followed, before Scotstoun came calling once
more. When it came to his return on the pitch, van der Merwe was ready to repay
the Warrior Nation for the rapturous reception that greeted the news of his
re-signing. The Canadian touched down for five tries in his first five matches
back with Glasgow, including a brace against Zebre in his second home debut and
another double on his 100th appearance for the club in an
end-of-season 1872 Cup clash.

“It was a
very straightforward decision to come back,” admitted van der Merwe.

incredibly thankful to Dean Richards and Newcastle for agreeing to release me
early from my contract. I’d been keeping in touch with a bunch of guys,
including Tommy Seymour who had mentioned to Dave [Rennie] that I was available
and interested in coming back. We really enjoyed Newcastle as a city and made
some good friends, but we were really happy to come back to Glasgow.

“I’d been
stuck on 97 or 98 caps when I left, and that had been bugging me – you want to
be part of the Centurions club! To get the opportunity to play my 100th
game for the club, against Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield to boot, was a huge

Whilst the
clock may be counting down on van der Merwe’s time with the club, one thing
remains a certainty – the finisher born in South Africa and raised in Canada is
now unquestionably an adopted son of the Warrior Nation.

“I’ve got so
much respect for Glasgow as a club and a city,” said the man himself.

“It’s been so
special to be a part of this club’s journey for so long, and it’s a place we
call home – this is where my daughter was born, so she’ll forever be a

“It’s not a
goodbye – it’s a ‘see you in the future’”

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