South Sydney are set to travel west to the foot of the Mountains with plenty on the line, coming up against a Panthers outfit lacking Matt Moylan, Waqa Blake and Peta Hiku. Penrith on the other hand have been touted as premiership contenders but are yet to truly dazzle against sides not named (admittedly improved) Newcastle, and have to stamp their authority sometime.

LAST TIME OUT

Effort points don’t actually count in rugby league, and this was evident when a brave Panthers outfit could not contain a white hot Melbourne even with their best defensive efforts, succumbing to the clinical purple men from Victoria 28-6. They rolled with the punches early and fell off as the Storm clicked in to gear, but showed some promising signs going forward for coach Anthony Griffin to build and mold.

The Rabbitohs were similarly in the wrong place at the wrong time when they journeyed to North Queensland and found themselves ridden by the Cowboys 20-6, severely lacking the punch of their suspended forward leader George Burgess. They’ll need to get back on track quickly but have the tools in the shed to do so, so look for them to improve on an uninspiring performance in the Queensland heat on Friday.

KEY BATTLES

The battle of the “niff-nuff” backlines sets this clash up to be an attacking feast with the chance of some suspect defense on the edges only aiding and abetting that. No player in the Penrith backline has more than 75 games and the Rabbitohs will rely on senior back Bryson Goodwin, because they too don’t have much experience in the back five. Younger players have lots of talent in attack but haven’t always trained in the defensive mindset needed at the top so it could be interesting – but Penrith do have the advantage of the best nursery in Australia. Look to both of the interchanges to provide some late game grunt, too, especially that of the Bunnymen.

PREDICTION

While Penrith do have a talented junior nursery, the loss of some backline stars especially Matt Moylan is sure to cause some headaches with their cohesion, compared to the inexperienced backs of South Sydney who’ve had some game time together in the NRL. South Sydney to prevail in a shootout by the mountainside, but they’ll get some fight from Penrith.

South Sydney by four.

SQUADS

Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Michael Oldfield 3. Dean Whare 4. Dallin Watene Zelezniak 5. Malakai Watene Zelezniak 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Peter Wallace 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 11. Corey Harawira 12. Isaah Yeo 13. Trent Merrin 14. Moses Leota 15. Leilani Latu 16. Viliame Kikau 17. Sitaleki Akauola 18. Sione Katoa 19. Tyrone May 20. Samisoni Langi 21. Mitch Rein
Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Braidon Burns 3. Siosifa Talakai 4. Robert Jennings 5. Bryson Goodwin 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Kyle Turner 11. John Sutton 12. Angus Crichton 13. Sam Burgess 14. Robbie Farah 15. Jason Clark 16. Zane Musgrove 17. Anthony Cherrington 18. George Burgess 19. Robbie Rochow 20. Cameron Murray 21. Tyrell Fuimaono