At this time of year, there are always fixtures that have little impact on the standings or the finals places. This dead rubber certainly fits in that category. It does, however, have some intriguing subplots and plenty of meaning for the players and coaches who are fighting for their future.
The Bunnies’ form has picked up in recent weeks, with wins over the Bulldogs and Dragons providing some much-needed relief from a disappointing campaign. Meanwhile, the Warriors may well be playing for the future of coach Stephen Kearney.
Kearney could be facing the axe off the back of an injury to star half-back Shaun Johnson. The Warriors’ season has been done and dusted ever since Johnson was forced from the pitch against Penrith. Since that loss to the Panthers, the Warriors have fallen to defeat four more times, to extend their poor run of results to six games.
2016 – Rd 23 South Sydney 41 def. New Zealand 22 at Mt Smart Stadium
2015 – Rd 13 South Sydney 36 def. New Zealand 4 at Perth Oval
2014 – Rd 13 South Sydney 34 def. New Zealand 18 at Perth Oval
2013 – Rd 17 South Sydney 30 def. New Zealand 13 at Perth Oval
2013 – Rd 5 South Sydney 24 def. New Zealand 22 at Mt Smart Stadium
This season, and in particular the last couple of months, haven’t made easy watching for the Warriors and their recent history against the Bunnies won’t give them any more confidence.
South Sydney have won the last five meetings between the sides, including a couple of high-scoring humblings in the last two years. On current form, the Warriors could be in for another hiding.
|SOUTH SYDNEY||NEW ZEALAND|
|Alex Johnston||1||1||Roger Tuivasa-Sheck|
|Bryson Goodwin||2||2||David Fusitua|
|Aaron Gray||3||3||Blake Ayshford|
|Tyrell Fuimaono||4||4||Solomone Kata|
|Campbell Graham||5||5||Ken Maumalo|
|Cody Walker||6||6||Kieran Foran|
|Adam Reynolds||7||7||Ata Hingano|
|Thomas Burgess||8||8||Jacob Lillyman|
|Damien Cook||9||9||Nathaniel Roache|
|Sam Burgess||10||10||Sam Lisone|
|John Sutton||11||11||Bunty Afoa|
|Angus Crichton||12||12||Ryan Hoffman|
|Cameron Murray||13||13||Simon Mannering|
|Robbie Farah||14||14||Isaac Luke|
|George Burgess||15||15||Tevita Satae|
|Kyle Turner||16||16||Isaiah Papali’i|
|Zane Musgrove||17||17||Charlie Gubb|
|Jack Gosiewski||18||18||Mason Lino|
|Robert Jennings||19||20||Toafofoa Sipley|
|David Tyrrell||20||21||James Bell|
|Luke Kelly||21||22||Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad|
The Facts That Matter
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Michael Maguire appears set to continue as the second hooker on the bench with Robbie Farah named in the number 14 jersey. The former Tigers man is reportedly not a popular figure among players and has caused too much disruption on the field when he has been sent on.
It is impossible to deny the improvement in the Bunnies’ attack when Damien Cook is on the park and getting himself involved at dummy-half, where he starts again this week.
Young winger Campbell Graham has been a breath of fresh air in a back-line that, Alex Johnston aside, has looked a little stilted while Bryson Goodwin remains a try-scoring threat each week.
The squad has minor changes from last week’s good win against the Bulldogs, with Angus Crichton returning to the back row and Sam Burgess joining brother Tom as the starting front-rowers.
South Sydney have been much improved over the last two weeks, and will back themselves to have enough class and consistency to overcome the Warriors at the ANZ Stadium.
Johnston is a genuine attacking weapon and with the creativity coming from Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds in the halves, he’s got a good chance of adding one or two tries to his 2017 tally on Friday.
New Zealand Warriors
It’s practically impossible to get excited for the Warriors as their 2017 campaign dwindles to a disappointing and, frankly, unacceptable end.
With Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at fullback, Kieran Foran and Johnson in the halves and Isaac Luke at hooker, things looked bright at the start of the year. But Johnson is sitting on the sideline and Luke has been benched for looking disinterested, while Foran and Tuivasa-Sheck have been way off their best.
From last week’s 36-16 loss at home to the Raiders, Kearney has dumped Mason Lino to the reserves and thrown in Ata Hingano at half-back alongside Foran, who returns from a short-term shoulder injury.
Ben Matulino misses out through suspension and is replaced by Sam Lisone with Charlie Gubb coming on to the bench.
You would hope that the Warriors might be able to lift their game for Jacob Lillyman’s 250th NRL game, but right now that looks about as likely as a snowman opening up a Korean BBQ joint in Hawaii.
Rabbitohs by over 13.
Don’t blame me for not putting anymore effort in to the prediction, I’m simply reflecting the Warriors’ efforts over the last few weeks.
Can the Warriors cause an upset and win this one, or will the Bunnies be too good? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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