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Jon Cardinelli

‘Hamilton vows to handle the heat’


Today's rugby headlines in Scotland Today's rugby headlines in Scotland

What the Scottish newspapers are saying ahead of Sunday's Test at Murrayfield.

The local media has focused on other sports and events, confirming that the Scotland vs South Africa battle is not a priority. Football, as well as Scotland's 40-4 loss to New Zealand in the Rugby League World Cup, dominate the sports pages this morning. The minimal rugby union coverage has been split between subjects related to Sunday's Test at Murrayfield, and former Springbok scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen's battle with motor neuron disease.

The great No 9 is currently touring the United Kingdom and Europe raising funds and awareness for MND. 'Still able to inspire' says a headline in the Scottish Daily Mail. Van der Westhuizen attended a special function at Murrayfield on Friday night, hosted by one of his old rivals, Scotland centre Scott Hastings.

Other than that, it's made clear that this is not the biggest rugby match of the weekend. Every BBC rugby insert I've watched has focused on Saturday's clash at Twickenham between England and the All Blacks, with the pundits given literally 10 seconds to discuss the Murrayfield game.

In his column for The Scotsman, Allan Massie says he's not surprised: 'If you were to believe the London broadsheets, the only international that matters this weekend is being staged at Twickenham. Their concentration on this game is understandable. New Zealand are the world champions, unbeaten in 2013, and the last defeat they suffered was at Twickenham 12 months ago.' Massie does mention how Scotland can help England this Sunday, as a win for the Scots at Murrayfield and one for the English at Twickenham would allow Stuart Lancaster's team to move to second on the world rankings. 'As to our chances,' he writes, referring back to Scotland, 'everyone will recognise that day-in day-out South Africa are a better team ... Nevertheless, though we lost away to South Africa in the summer, we led the match for a long time and, rather surprisingly, we are the last northern hemisphere team to have beaten the Springboks – 21-17 at Murrayfield in 2010.'

Massie feels that the return of locks Richie Gray and Jim Hamilton will boost the hosts' chances of an upset. This optimism is evident in the other Scottish papers today, with every one of them looking at how Hamilton will go against the Bok behemoths.

David Ferguson writes for The Scotsman that man for man, the Scots are just as big and physical as their South African counterparts. Stuart Bathgate interviews Hamilton for the same paper, and the No 5 admits that he enjoys the enforcer's role almost as much as he likes calling the lineouts.

The other Scottish papers have gone harder on the physical angle, with the Scottish Daily Mail declaring: 'Hamilton vows to handle the heat'. There is a reference to the last game between these two sides where Hamilton was unfairly yellow-carded. Hamilton tells Rob Robertson that he is more determined than ever to play his belligerent brand. 'I felt I left the guys in the lurch last time out, despite the fact that my yellow card was totally unjustified, 'he said. 'What happened then won't change my approach to the game, and I will play just as hard as I did in Nelspruit ... there is, of course, a fine line you don't cross.'

The theme of injustice is picked up in The Herald, which has run the headline: 'Revenge should not be driving force'. The picture of Eben Etzebeth winding up to clout Hamilton is juxtaposed with a caption that partially reads: 'Handbags'. The writer, Alasdair Reid, feels Etzebeth deserved an Oscar for going to ground so easily after being pushed by Hamilton, and that the Scotland No 5 never deserved a yellow card. Etzebeth is on the Bok bench this weekend, but may come up against Hamilton in the second half, and Reid says the young Bok lock should expect a physical welcome to the field. The headline and several diplomatic quotes from Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw suggest Scotland have put that disappointment behind them, but the way Reid has written the article confirms not all is forgiven nor forgotten.

By Jon Cardinelli

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