The announcement of Duhan van der Merwe’s move to Worcester Warriors next season has kindled new criticism over the current residency rules and the Scottish Rugby Union’s ability to keep hold of their players.
The Edinburgh winger only qualified for Scotland last year on residency, so this announcement comes just a couple of months after he made his debut in the autumn.
The blame is not being pointed at van der Merwe in this situation, as he abided by the rules and, in a relatively short career, rugby players deserve to make as much money as possible. The additional backdrop of the current pandemic has also meant that there are financial pressures on clubs and unions, making such a move all the more understandable.
Since earning his first Scotland cap in October, the 25-year-old South African’s stock would have only risen, making it harder for Edinburgh to keep hold of him.
The main issue is regarding the residency rule and the structures in place to keep hold of Scottish qualified players.
World Rugby has already addressed the three-year residency rule by increasing it to five. That will come into place at the end of the year, so van der Merwe is part of the last batch of players that will qualify to play Test rugby after this shorter period.
That is cold comfort for those that feel the destructive winger’s stay in the Scottish capital has been far too short.
While that will ensure at least two more years of commitment to Scottish clubs, there is nothing in place to keep hold of players after that. This is what differentiates Scotland from England and Ireland, who only pick players playing at home, or Wales, who have a 60-cap rule.
This has seen other players in the past move elsewhere once they have qualified, with van der Merwe’s future Worcester teammate Cornell du Preez being another example. But alongside Gloucester’s recruitment of Adam Hastings last month, the winger is just another high profile name to leave Scotland.
Ideas are being bandied about to help solve this problem, but a perennial difficulty the SRU faces is trying to compete with the financial powerhouses of Europe in order to keep their talent playing in Glasgow or Edinburgh.
The solace that is being taken is that van der Merwe has committed to Scotland, where he is likely to be a mainstay on the wing for years to come.
Residency should only stand if you qualify for residency then remain a resident of that country. Too many players doing this (leaving once capped). International selection needs addressing.
— John Mounter (@john10mounter) January 4, 2021
Really disappointing. He’s a pro and his focus has to be his own career, but hanging around in Scotland until he gets his first cap and then immediately leaving for a bigger pay day is a bitter pill.
— marmalade (@marmala18823559) January 4, 2021
Big fan of VDM, but makes a mockery of the residency rule, put himself in shop window and took advantage to get big move. There again can’t be great chasing box kicks for 80 mins
— Kevin Bulloch (@therealbag11) January 5, 2021
I guess if there’s nothing in place that says you won’t get picked for the international team if you don’t play in the country, like Ireland and England have, then players will almost always follow the money. Can’t blame them. Short career.
— Matt (@MattLander4) January 4, 2021
Got his Scottish qualification through residency so can now feck off to a big pay day at an English club. A well trodden path for those mercenary imports. The SRU should stop giving them caps and nurture our home grown, genuinely Scottish, talent.
— Indy2 in 2021 (@ipa1869) January 4, 2021
Glasgow and Edinburgh becoming more and more like feeder clubs to England and France…much needed investment needed or national team incentives to remain in Scotland
— David McAlpine (@MacDJ1985) January 4, 2021
This is on the SRU not DVDM. Fair play to him…the SRU are a complete disgrace…its ok I am sure they will come out and communicate with us all about how they plan to keep both our teams competitive while our best players are over-played and not looked after in the Premiership!
— Alsy Pod (@alanwalters6) January 4, 2021
Cant blame anyone for maximizing earning potential in a short career – but it emphasizes truly farcical international qualification rules.
— Rob Donnelly (@Donnelly10Rob) January 4, 2021