Shannon Meyer previews Saturday night’s clash between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney’s recent form is becoming a bit of a worry, going from genuine minor premiership challengers halfway through the season to struggling to stay in the top four. A loss this weekend could see to that.
The Rabbitohs have lost their last two: one a competitive loss to the competition leaders last weekend in Gosford, the other a terrible performance against the Sharks.
But looking further back South Sydney have won just 3 games of 9 since Round 11, two of those wins coming against North Queensland and St George-Illawarra, and a one point win over Manly.
Where the Rabbitohs have lost their last two, Canterbury come into the game on a two-game winning streak, and will probably fancy their chances of an upset. Their wins came against two sides – Penrith and Wests Tigers – playing for top eight ambitions.
Their recent winning ways has probably done enough to avoid the wooden spoon for 2019, which should be a relief for them.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Adam Reynolds has been named to play, which looked unlikely after last weekend. That’s a good thing as the Rabbitohs don’t win many games without him.
Sam Burgess returns to the side after a quad injury, and having him back in the side should give the Rabbitohs a little extra power in the forwards, as long as he can keep himself out of the referee’s report. One could argue after his hit in the Sharks game two weeks ago that he’s lucky to be playing this week for another reason.
The under-rated centre Braidon Burns also returns.
South Sydney Rabbitohs’ squad:
1. Adam Doueihi 2. Dane Gagai 3. James Roberts 4. Braidon Burns 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Sam Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Liam Knight 11. Ethan Lowe 12. Jaydn Su’a 13. Cameron Murray 14. Thomas Burgess 15. John Sutton 16. Dean Britt 17. Tevita Tatola 18. Mark Nicholls 19. Corey Allan 20. Bayley Sironen 21. Connor Tracey.
No changes for the Bulldogs’ starting 17, and why not after a win last start? There is the looming name of Kieran Foran among the reserves, on the comeback trail from a hamstring injury.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs’ squad:
1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Kerrod Holland 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Jack Cogger 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 13. Chris Smith 14. Jeremy Marshall-King 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Danny Fualalo 17. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 19. Morgan Harper 20. Kieran Foran 21. Adam Elliott 22. Ofahiki Ogden.
HEAD TO HEAD
Canterbury hold the overall record between these sides since 1998, winning a healthy 57 per cent of the matches. But that turns around to 58 per cent in South Sydney’s favour this decade, including the 2014 grand final.
The Bulldogs have won just one of the last six fixtures between them at the Olympic Stadium, but they have won six of the seven games played between them at the Olympic Stadium with a 7:30pm kick off.
One key battle for Saturday’s clash is in the halves. South Sydney’s six and seven on paper should easily cover the less-heralded Bulldogs duo of Jack Cogger and Lachlan Lewis, but a question mark hangs over Adam Reynolds and his fitness, and Cody Walker just hasn’t been quite the same since his State of Origin benching. At their best, Reynolds and Walker are arguably the best halves combination in the NRL, but that best hasn’t been seen much lately.
Another key battle is Sam Burgess against himself. Few can deny his greatness and contribution to South Sydney, but this season he has seemed angrier, and right on the edge of doing something silly all the time. If South Sydney are to be a genuine title threat, they need his aggression to be mixed with a little restraint. They simply can’t afford for him to miss too many more weeks.
It will likely be a hard-fought battle, mostly up the middle, so the best forward performance on the day will carry their team to victory. A quick comparison between the two packs shows not a great deal in it, a fit Burgess possibly swings it towards Souths.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 17th August
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Referee: Henry Perenara, Belinda Sharpe
WHO WILL WIN?
South Sydney need to bounce back with a victory this weekend. It will come, but only just, winning by a late penalty goal.
South Sydney by two.