Van der Merwe confident Ulster can kick on from Leinster rout
Franco van der Merwe's smile gets wider when the stats are thrown his way.
The 33-year-old has been involved in all but three of Ulster's 27 games this season, and the squad's workhorse goes again tomorrow with the stakes fully ramped up as Les Kiss' men bid to secure a play-off place when they travel to the Ospreys for the final round of regulation games.
It was much the same story in the last campaign too, when the South African second-row's trademark hard-grafting and durability saw him play in 26 of Ulster's 29 matches before suffering a serious calf injury in Glasgow which forced him to miss the semi-final back at the same venue.
"Hopefully we have a few games left and, at the moment, the body feels good and I'm going into this game feeling really fit," he said.
It was a typically sleeves-rolled-up effort from Van der Merwe in the 30-6 thumping of Leinster last week and now there is a growing belief that they can deliver in Wales.
Ulster need to match Scarlets' result - they are one point behind and are away to Munster - to seal fourth place; Ospreys have an outside chance of securing a Champions Cup place by finishing sixth.
"Luckily we're in a position where we know exactly what we have to do and how many points we need," said Van der Merwe.
"And that's the only thing we can focus on. We can't worry about any other results. If we achieve what we need, then we qualify.
"I've never been part of anything like this, though. I think having so many teams chasing things makes it more exciting.
"You want to be part of these massive games, you want to be in the team that played Leinster last weekend and, yes, you want to be in this big game with the Ospreys.
"You want to be part of the team that makes the play-offs, otherwise what do you train so hard for?"