Two in-form teams meet in what could be the match of the round, as the third-placed Warriors host the fourth-placed Rabbitohs from Auckland.
The Warriors have shown the ability to bounce back from two heavy defeats this season, registering a win away against the lowly Eels last week, doing it again without their talisman Shaun Johnson and captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. This has kept them in the top four mix as they potentially welcome back two of their key players this week.
The Rabbitohs are really hitting their straps and are showing they are more than capable of being a top-four side this season. They sent a statement with their defeat of the Dragons in round 10, but showed last week against the Cowboys they can also do it tough. With captain Greg Inglis back in the side this week, they are carrying some serious momentum.
Round 1, 2018 – Warriors 32 def. Rabbitohs 20 at Perth Stadium
Round 24, 2017 – Rabbitohs 36 def. Warriors 18 at ANZ Stadium
Round 23, 2016 – Rabbitohs 41 def. Warriors 22 at Mount Smart Stadium
Round 13, 2015 – Rabbitohs 36 def. Warriors 4 at NIB Stadium
Round 13, 2014 – Rabbitohs 34 def. Warriors 18 at NIB Stadium
Until this year, the teams had only played each other once per season, with the Rabbitohs coming away from each encounter with a comfortable win. The Warriors started their run to the top of the ladder with a win over the Rabbitohs in Perth in round one this season however, and will take that into their home clash.
Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returns to the side this week after missing last week's match. Mason Lino is out with a leg strain, with Gerard Beale moving to the centres, Peta Hiku to five eighth and Blake Green to halfback. Shaun Johnson took a limited part in training and while not named, might be a chance to play come gameday. Simon Mannering is also named, forcing Isaiah Papali'i to the bench.
Captain Greg Inglis comes back into the side at fullback as Alex Johnston is out with a hamstring injury. Robert Jennings also returns onto the wing.
|New Zealand Warriors||South Sydney Rabbitohs|
|1||Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c)||Greg Inglis (c)|
|2||David Fusitu'a||Campbell Graham|
|3||Gerard Beale||Adam Doueihi|
|4||Solomone Kata||Dane Gagai|
|5||Ken Maumalo||Robert Jennings|
|6||Peta Hiku||Cody Walker|
|7||Blake Green||Adam Reynolds|
|8||James Gavet||Thomas Burgess|
|9||Issac Luke||Damien Cook|
|10||Agnatius Paasi||George Burgess|
|11||Simon Mannering||John Sutton|
|12||Tohu Harris||Angus Crichton |
|13||Adam Blair||Sam Burgess|
|14||Jazz Tevaga||Hymel Hunt|
|15||Chris Satae||Cameron Murray|
|16||Bunty Afoa||Jason Clark|
|17||Isaiah Papali'i||Tevita Tatola|
|18||Karl Lawton||Braidon Burns|
|19 ||Anthony Gelling||Kyle Turner|
The facts that matter
They are returning to the Warriors of the old as their competition-leading 165 offloads attests to, alongside a high 31 line break assists. With Roger Tuivasa-Sheck back and potentially Shaun Johnson, the Rabbitohs defense really needs to be on their game if they will contain a Warriors team that likes to throw the ball around. Alongside this, Issac Luke has made 55 dummy-half runs this season and expect he will look to wreak havoc as well around the ruck.
The Warriors pack are more than capable but have also been found wanting at times, as shown in games against the Roosters and Storm. They will rely on James Gavet, Agnatius Paasi and Bunty Afoa to make a push as a unit this week, while Simon Mannering and Tohu Harris patrol the flanks. They also cannot afford to drop off so many tackles, with their missed tackle of 392 ranking fourth in the league. Against a Rabbitohs pack looking to make metres, this will be a big test.
The Rabbitohs can score points. They top the league alongside the Dragons with 45 tries. But it's also the lead-up which has generated the points they have been able to create - they engage the line more than any other side, are ranked first with 37 line break assists, and second behind Manly with 31 try assists. Their all-run metres are also towards the top of the list. It is a product of the formula they have been using - use their pack to get the metres up the field, with the Burgess brothers and Angus Crichton among them, and then give the ball to their backs to finish it. So far, so good.
The match could well turn out to be the battle of the hookers, with Damien Cook coming up against Isaac Luke. Cook has been in supreme form this season, so much so that NSW selection is a real possibility for him, with teams being named next week. He has been active in defence, in the top five of the league with 466 tackles, but also loves to run the ball, leading the competition with 63 dummy-half runs. With an inconsistent Warriors pack in front of them, he could be well poised to open the game.
This shapes up to be an enthralling contest between two sides who like to run the ball, two hookers well matched in their running, and two solid packs. Both have also got key players back in the mix. It really could go either way.
With the Warriors having hometown advantage this time around, I think they will scrape home in a close game by four points.
Will the Bunnies grab a much-needed win over the ditch, or will the Warriors reign supreme in New Zealand? Let us know in the comments below.