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11 Apr 2018

Sydney Roosters vs. South Sydney Rabbitohs: Lineups, preview and predictions

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Overview

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Recent meetings

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Lineups

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The facts that matter

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Prediction

Overview

The longest standing rugby league rivalry is renewed for another year as traditional foes the Roosters and the Rabbitohs meet in a Thursday night blockbuster. Both sides have struggled for consistency over the opening five rounds and despite some impressive performances, find themselves chasing the pack. The Roosters come into this game as last start winners after disposing of the Sharks, while for Souths, they can take encouragement from their narrow loss to competition leaders - the Dragons. 

The hate between these two is not only strong, it's real. Just ask James Tedesco. He grew up supporting the tricolours and knows only too well how strongly each club's fanbase despise one another. It's one of the features of this rivalry that makes it so absorbing. There are story lines everywhere you look and many that go beyond mere bragging rights; Luke Keary faces off against his former employer after a public spat with Russell Crowe while Angus Crichton tackles the side he'll be suiting up for in 2019. All of this is sure to make for an enthralling clash as the Bunnies go head-to-head with the Roosters to open Round 6.

Recent meetings

2017 - Round 18 - Roosters 14 def. Rabbitohs 12 at Allianz Stadium

2017 - Round 4 - Roosters 20 def. Rabbitohs 6 at ANZ Stadium

2016 - Round 6 - Roosters 17 def. Rabbitohs 10 at ANZ Stadium

2016 - Round 1 - Rabbitohs 42 def. Roosters 10 at Allianz Stadium

2015 - Round 26 - Roosters 26 def. Rabbitohs 0 at Allianz Stadium 

The oldest rivalry in Australian rugby league returns for its 217th instalment. The Rabbitohs hold a slight lead with 112 wins to the Roosters 99 but it's the Roosters who have had the recent measure of their cross-town rivals. The Bondi club has beaten the Rabbitohs on four of the last five occasions and holds a superior record when playing at home. The last time the Bunnies outpointed the Chooks at Moore Park?... All the way back in 2013.

Lineups

Sydney Roosters South Sydney Rabbitohs
1James TedescoAlex Johnston
2Reece RobinsonRichie Kennar
3Latrell MitchellGreg Inglis (C)
4Joseph ManuDane Gagai
5Blake FergusonRobert Jennings
6Luke KearyCody Walker
7Cooper CronkAdam Reynolds
8Sio Siua TaukeiahoThomas Burgess
9Jake Friend (C)Damien Cook
10Dylan NapaGeorge Burgess
11Boyd Cordner (C)John Sutton
12Ryan MattersonAngus Crichton
13Isaac LiuCameron Murray
Interchange
14Jared Waerea-HargreavesAdam Doueihi
15Zane TetevanoMark Nicholls
16Mitchell AubussonJason Clark
17Victor RadleyTevita Tatola
Reserves
18Nat ButcherRobbie Farah
19Kurt BaptisteHymel Hunt
20Mitchell CornishCampbell Graham
21Frank-Paul NuuausalaKyle Turner

The facts that matter

Roosters

The Rooster's premiership push is back on track after they convincingly put the Sharks away last Friday night. With a host of new faces, the Chooks were always going to need time for combinations to form and those combinations are now gelling thanks to one man. With Luke Keary back from a broken jaw and playing regular footy, the Roosters have looked a much better side. The diminutive half has had a hand in much of the Rooster's enterprising play over the opening rounds and his combination with Cooper Cronk continues to improve by the week. Keary has been so dominant since returning that he now sits second for try-assists (7 assists) despite playing one less game than his nearest rivals. He'll look to continue his brilliant form this Thursday and would love nothing more than to get one up against his 2014 premiership teammates. 

If there is one chink in the Rooster's armour it's their forward pack. The big men at the Roosters have come under a mountain of criticism after the opening five rounds and rightly so. Before their win over the Sharks, the Roosters were the only side in the competition not to have a forward averaging over 100m. They rectified that on Friday with big displays from Boyd Cordner (183m) and Sio Siua Taukeiaho (165m) and for the first time, their engine room looks to be firing on all cylinders. 

Rabbitohs

Sam Burgess is a huge omission for the Bunnies in this one. With a Rooster's forward pack that has come under recent scrutiny, you would have given the Rabbits every chance of springing an upset if the big Yorkshire lad was in the run-on-side. With Burgess sitting out the final game of his 2-week suspension, the hopes of Rabbitohs fans rely on the NRL's most inexperienced forward pack. The average age of South's starting pack is just 25 years of age and between them, they boast only a handful of NRL appearances. It's a tough ask for this young Rabbits pack to match it with the experience of players like Cooper Cronk, Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner, but they must lift if they have any hope of beating the Roosters on Thursday evening. 

The big question for Souths is how they utilise Adam Doueihi. With the return of Adam Reynolds last weekend, Doueihi was shuffled back to the bench for their game against the Dragons. It wasn't until the 70th minute that the young half entered the match in place of a dazed Reynolds and his presence sparked an immediate lift. His physical size and willingness to run the football opened space and allowed halves partner Cody Walker to lay on two quick tries in what was very nearly the comeback of the season. All eyes will be on coach Anthony Seibold this week and don't be surprised to see him inject Doueihi into the contest slightly earlier - perhaps even as a ball playing edge player. 

Prediction

It's a shame the NRL have plonked this game in the wasteland that is Thursday night football as it will prevent any chance of a big crowd but hey, that's the power that TV holds in the modern game. Regardless, this rivalry always delivers and with two clubs that have shown recent attacking flair, we are in for a treat to kick off Round 6 of the premiership.

The Rabbitohs will take plenty of confidence out of their 4-point loss to the Dragons but it's the absence of Sam Burgess that will be most keenly felt. Expect the Bunnies to be in this one for a large part of the game before the Roosters star-power comes to the fore. Roosters by 8. 

Who do you think claims bragging rights in this original rivalry? Tell us in the poll below.