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Tuesday Jan 5, 2021

New residency debate after Van der Merwe gets capped then leaves

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.

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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.

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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.

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