Van der Merwe plundered his decisive second try in the 74th minute as Scotland came from behind to record a 29-23 victory in their Guinness Six Nations opener.
The marauding Lions wing had already brought Twickenham to its feet with a stunning first-half score that began in his own half and saw five would-be tacklers beaten by his speed, strength and footwork.
While a magnificent solo score, it exposed a failing in England’s defence that was a recurring theme in the afternoon’s main indicator of a team playing under a new regime for the first time.
But overall it was a promising start to the Borthwick era as they performed with the speed and purpose that was missing in the latter stages of Eddie Jones’ time in charge, before running out of steam in the closing stages.
Max Malins crossed twice and Ellis Genge touched down for England in a seven-try thriller that saw irrepressible Scotland rewarded for refusing to give up.
England were booed from the pitch after a limp defeat by South Africa in their last appearance, the climax to a dire 2022 that resulted in Jones being sacked, but this seven-try thriller was very different.
They had won only one of the last five Calcutta Cup matches and the early omens signposted that run continuing when Huw Jones touched down Sione Tuipulotu’s grubber in the 15th minute.
Earlier in the move, Jones had raced through a wide gap in the midfield defence as Scotland struck off their first attack of the game having been on the ropes for the opening exchanges.
Apart from the all-too-familiar penalty count, there had been much to admire about England’s start and in the 23rd minute they were over, pouncing on the 15th phase of a sustained assault in the 22 when Malins produced a fine finish of Marcus Smith’s crossfield kick.
The brittle home defence was exposed once again as Van der Merwe, taking a pass from Kyle Steyn, left a host of white shirts in his wake as he weaved a path to the whitewash.
It was a classy individual score, but England showed their own flair to engineer a second for Malins as patient build-up and smart handling created a simple run in on the right wing.
An Owen Farrell penalty gave the hosts a one-point interval lead and they were over for a third time through Genge in the 48th minute after a succession of dynamic carries by their pack.
Scotland’s visits to the home 22 were rare but they showed a ruthless streak when they arrived, with Ben White taking advantage of an absent ruck defence to plunder a sharp try.
Veteran prop Dan Cole came on for his first cap since the 2019 World Cup final and forced a penalty at the scrum in his first involvement of the match, giving England the platform to renew their attack.
Farrell landed his second penalty and Russell replied in kind as a nailbiting conclusion approached.
Scotland kept pressing and the breakthrough arrived with six minutes left as Van der Merwe showed his strength to bulldoze over in the left corner and keep the Calcutta Cup in Edinburgh.