Rabbitohs v Storm Preview

Rabbitohs v Storm
Members Equity Stadium, Perth
Saturday 7.30pm (AEST)

Tsk… tsk… tsk. South Sydney has seemingly done it to their fans again.

The Rabbitohs often start out showing so much promise, only to fall into a mediocrity spiral – and they are now smack bang in the middle of one of those freefalls.

Sure they beat the Wests Tigers in Round 10, but it was thanks to a last-second field goal. And the Tigers aren’t exactly setting the world on fire.

From there it was a stumbling draw against the struggling Eels and huge losses to the Raiders and Cowboys.

The good news is the side has still managed to hold on to ninth place on the ladder and is just a win and a half outside the top eight.

But the extra bad news is they now face a resurgent Melbourne Storm who warmed up for this match by demolishing the high-flying Broncos.

At least the match isn’t being played in Melbourne… although the long trip to Perth is unlikely to bring with it a fortress-like Rabbitohs warren.

The Rabbitohs have made some minor adjustments to their team for the match, with Scott Geddes coming into the starting side at prop, Luke Stuart moving to lock, Craig Wing pushing up to hooker and Issac Luke reverting to he bench.

Jaiman Lowe and ex Storm prop Garrett Crossman have been added to the bench which has six men on it at this stage.

For the Storm, who have powered up to fifth on the ladder just a point off the competition leaders, their 17 remains unchanged from the one that manhandled the Broncos.

The Origin duo of Cameron Smith and Dallas Johnson will start the game, as will Adam Blair, with Ryan Hinchcliffe, Aiden Tolman and Brett White reverting to the bench.

Watch out Rabbitohs:
Melbourne can attack from all over the park so sides can’t afford to relax at any stage. However, the Rabbitohs really need to aim up when it comes to goal-line defence.

Having let 27 tries past them from within 10 metres of the line the Rabbitohs are the equal worst goal-line defenders (along with the Wests Tigers) and they need to be much tougher to take on the likes of the Storm. With Cooper Cronk regaining his running game and strong outside backs like Greg Inglis and Billy Slater and big damaging forwards like Adam Blair, Jeff Lima and Sika Manu all coming at them, the Rabbitohs could be in for a world of hurt.

Watch out Storm: Craig Wing has been a shining light for the Rabbitohs in recent times and he moves back to probably his best position of hooker to try to turn the Bunnies’ fortunes around.

Wing’s zip and acceleration from the ruck could be just what the Rabbitohs need to get their sets of six on the front foot. After spending some time at lock and even halfback Wing returns to acting half in great form.

Watch for his energetic bursts and expect him to add to his season stats. Considering the Rabbitohs have made 14 fewer line breaks than the Storm so far this year, they need Wing to fire.

Where it will be won: Defence is the key. When you come up against a rampaging Storm outfit, with Greg Inglis and Billy Slater in scintillating form, you have to find a way to defend stoutly or face a scoreline like the 46-4 the Broncos faced up to at fulltime last week.

It is important the Storm also stays committed to the defensive process, despite coming up against a side which is struggling to score. It only takes a slight lapse in intensity to let players like Wing and the enigmatic Chris Sandow gain some confidence.

It isn’t beyond the Bunnies; they have been steely at times this season… but that hasn’t been the case in the past two games.

The History:
Played 14; Rabbitohs 2, Storm 12. The Rabbitohs have lost seven in a row against the Storm, not winning since 2004 when they prevailed by just two points in Sydney.

The two teams have never met in the Western Australian capital but the Rabbitohs’ attempts to take this fixture in Gosford in the past two years resulted in further losses, so history is against them.

Conclusion: Form suggests nothing but a big Melbourne win. But this is the NRL and form can easily go out the window.

The long trip to Perth could upset the rhythm of both sides, particularly as the game will be played at 9.30pm Eastern time.

The Rabbitohs really do need to step it up to get back into the finals frame – but common sense suggests stick with the Storm.

Match officials: Referees – Ashley Klein & Chris James; Sideline Officials – Daniel Eastwood & Gavin Morris; Video Ref – Steve Clark.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 9.30pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.