Rugby league returns to the Sydney Cricket Ground this Sunday afternoon as two of the oldest rivals in the game renew hostilities. Souths vs St George. The SCG. Sunday afternoon. Buckle up for a trip down memory lane!

LAST TIME OUT

The Dragons were never going to have it easy heading into the local derby with the Sharks, however crucial errors and an overall lack of discipline put them too far behind the eight ball to compete with an impressive Cronulla outfit. Their attack was again flat, lacked spark, and will need to improve drastically if they are going to consistently score enough points to win games this year.

Souths have put two of the more comprehensive wins in recent years together, doing so in successive weeks. Newcastle was never a chance against a high octane Souths outfit that dominated every aspect of the match from start to finish. The return of Sam Burgess seems to have revitalised the entire forward pack, all of a sudden they look like the 2014 Rabbitohs again.

The lopsided nature of the score against the Sharks shouldn’t be read into too much. The Dragons won’t play that bad again this year and only have improvement in them as a team. They have started the year with two away matches against two of the stronger teams in this year Premiership race. This should not be understated.

In contrast, even the most hardened Souths supporter will not be getting too carried away with their dominant start to the year. Two big wins against under strength teams have inflated the Rabbitohs for and against – to their credit though, this will prove decisive later in the year and could give them the edge in what is expected to be a tightly run race for positions in the top 8

KEY BATTLE

The halves.

Souths have flourished with their makeshift playmakers in their first two matches this year. With injury and suspension keeping the pairing of Reynolds and Keary apart thus far – many expected some early stumbles to start the year. This has not been the case. The team has looked energised and full of run, as a consequence the halves have had plenty of options for hard running forwards and fast slashing backs to find their way over the advantage line and ultimately the try line.

The Dragons have not been so lucky in this regard. The lack of spark to start the year has seen them endure long stretches of their two matches without points, which has ultimately put pressure on other parts of their game.

If this trend continues on Sunday expect another lopsided result to go the way of the Rabbits. The experience of Benji and Gareth should negate this from happening however. Both have big match experience and will find a way to lift individually, which has the potential to filter through the rest of the team.

PREDICTION

Based on the current form of both teams this looms as a mismatch. In reality the Dragons severely underperformed in their last outing against the Sharks and Souths destroyed a very weak Newcastle squad.

This match is a danger game for Souths. They will be expected to win and win well; the Dragons have felt the effects of facing two of the Premiership heavyweights to start the year and are left licking their wounds. If the Dragons are going to make a run at the top 8 in 2016 it will have to start here.

Given the venue (SCG) both teams will be up for this one and as such expect some fireworks early on. The Dragons halves need to find a spark and with the move of Josh Dugan back to fullback it could happen this Sunday afternoon. Souths are on a roll and with the form they have captured to start the year, plus the confidence they would have gained from defeating the Dragons barely a month ago in the Charity Shield, they should have the firepower to put enough points on a disappointing Dragons outfit.

Expect the Dragons to be solid early and even jump out to a surprise lead. The Rabbitohs should respond and overpower the Dragons in the last third of the match, continuing their strong start to the year. Souths by 6.

SQUADS

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

1 Greg Inglis

2 Alex Johnston

3 Bryson Goodwin

4 Hymel Hunt

5 Aaron Gray

6 Cody Walker

7 Luke Keary

8 George Burgess

9 Cameron McInnes

10 David Tyrrell

11 Paul Carter

12 Kyle Turner

13 Sam Burgess

INTERCHANGE

14 Damien Cook

15 Jason Clark

16 Nathan Brown

17 Kirisome Auva’a

18 Chris Grevsmuhl

19 Michael Oldfield

ST GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS

1 Josh Dugan

2 Peter Mata’utia

3 Euan Aitkin

4 Timoteo Lafai

5 Jason Nightingale

6 Gareth Widdop (c)

7 Benji Marshall

8 Leeson Ah Mau

9 Mitch Rein

10 Russel Packer

11 Tyson Frizell

12 Joel Thompson

13 Mike Cooper

INTERCHANGE

14 Ben Creagh

15 Jack de Belin

16 Will Matthews

17 Siliva Havili