As a student at Stellenbosch University 19-year-old Edwill van der Merwe is living his dream.
"I always wanted to be a Matie," says the Maties rugby player with pride.
Van der Merwe made his debut for Steinhoff Maties this year. He also played for the Western Province U/21 team after being part of the Western Province Rugby Institute based at Stellenbosch Academy of Sport last year.
Van der Merwe is a Sport Science student and registered for his course last year.
"I must say the fact that I was able to complete a few subjects last year made my life so much easier this year."
It was a very busy year for the Huis Neethling resident. After he made his debut for Maties in the Varsity Cup, he was also selected for the Junior Springboks. Although the South African U/20 team did not have the best Junior World Championships, Van der Merwe was very successful. He did not only score one of the best tries in the tournament, but was also one of only two South Africans who were included in the tournament's Dream Team. The other player was Curwin Bosch.
This year, Van der Merwe mostly played for the WP U/21 team and made his senior WP debut in the Currie Cup tournament's qualifying phase.
"I will never forget my debut for Maties. It was unbelievable. And to score my first try in the Maroon jersey ... is something I have dreamed of ever since I was 12 years old and a ball boy for Maties games at the Danie Craven Stadium. I remember staring at the players and simply knowing that one day I want to pull that jersey over my head."
Along with his Maties debut, being a Junior Springbok was the other highlight of 2016 for the fast winger. "It was not the best tournament for the team, but I learnt and experienced so much."
Van der Merwe is a proud sportsman and student.
"I enjoy my studies. Just as I always knew I wanted to play for Maties, I knew that I wanted to study Sports Science so that I can become a biokineticist. It is going very well thus far. It's hard work to find balance. But I like challenges and am getting an incredible amount of support from the Maties Sport's High Performance programme. As an HP sport Maties Rugby operates on a high level. I know I will be exposed to and experience the best."
Van der Merwe was named the WP U/21 Player of the Year at the WP Rugby Awards and was also named the Maties Young Player of the Year.
Photo: Thys Lombard