Grab your mouse and send the cursor to the NRL.com previews from Round 11. There you will see the Warriors v Rabbitohs pre-match analysis and quite frankly, the same theme will be found here.
The Rabbitohs once again proved last weekend that they have the ability to not only compete with the top sides, but to blow them away in sections of matches. Just like they did to the Wests Tigers in Round 10, the Bunnies spanked the Panthers in Round 12 to push up to fifth on the table.
But in Round 11, just as we warned, the Rabbitohs lost a match they were expected to win, falling to the Warrior. It is like a broken record with this club… they cannot win the games they should and it’s bringing plenty of heartache for fans over time.
This Monday night they meet the Cowboys, who could even be without Johnathan Thurston if he doesn’t overcome a judiciary charge tonight (Wednesday).
It is a game they should win, as the Cowboys are floundering in 14th with just three wins all year. But because this is the case, it is a game they are likely to lose.
With the halfway point of the year approaching the playing group has the chance to push as high as second at the ‘turn’, with a win and other results – but a loss could see them fall from their current fifth place to as low as eighth… even ninth if they were really hammered.
They have picked the same side in the hope some consistency in players brings consistency in performance.
The Cowboys are at crisis point. Whether or not they have Thurston on board, they need to win.
The best-case scenario after 13 rounds for the Cowboys is12th, still a long way from competing for a title. The worst-case scenario is 15th, effectively last of all the ‘competing’ teams.
John Williams is out of the side beaten by Manly last weekend, with Michael Bani coming onto the wing. Willie Mason has been named to start (it’s his 200th first grade appearance), with Carl Webb to the bench and Dane Hogan has been added to a five-man bench.
Should he play, Johnathan Thurston needs just one goal for 300 career goals.
Watch out Rabbitohs: The Cowboys will be coming left – and hard. With 21 tries on the left side of the field compared to just nine on the right, it is obvious Willie Tonga is the go-to man for the Cowboys.
Being strong here themselves helps; but the knowledge the Rabbitohs have conceded 21 tries on the left side, compared to just 10 on the right, gives the visiting side even more reason to set up camp on the left side of the field all game long. If the South Sydney defenders get lazy they will be exploited.
Watch out Cowboys: Issac Luke is having a tremendous season and has helped the Rabbitohs to many a win. The home side has scored more tries from dummy-half (six) than any other NRL side, giving the Cowboys’ defence something to be wary of.
Luke is super busy for a hooker, averaging the same metres as most props, with 131 a game. He has tallied nine line-breaks – five from dummy-half – six line-break assists, six try assists and five tries, not to mention 59 tackle-breaks.
Where it will be won: Defence. The Rabbitohs and Cowboys have the aces in the pack to score plenty of points but it is in defence where the competition points are nestled. While John Lang won a competition with Penrith with a ‘score-as-many-as-you-want-’cause-we’ll-score-more’ attitude, it is much harder to find consistency in this way and the better opposition sides have rock-hard defences now.
Both these sides have missed up around 400 tackles so far this year, which all but kills their chances of choking teams out of matches. If you leave a wounded animal around long enough eventually it will strike and this has been the case in most of their games this year… they haven’t killed anyone off with ripper defence and the contest has been left alive or they have been soundly beaten due to their own defensive frailties.
The side that focuses on shutting the other down, then lets its natural attack flow, could win this game with conviction.
The history: Played 19; Rabbitohs 9, Cowboys 9, drawn 1. One of these two sides can retake the head-to-head honours here with a win. The Rabbitohs have won four of the past five between the clubs, although the Cowboys won the last match played.
At ANZ Stadium it is South Sydney two, Cowboys one, with the visitors not winning there since 2006.
Conclusion: As we said at the start… this is a game South Sydney should win but most of the time this means they won’t.
Let’s give them another chance; but this is it… if they burn you again, ditch them in these scenarios. We will find out just how fair dinkum their title aspirations are here.
The Cowboys aren’t a write off… they won in Sydney against the Roosters the other week and are desperate for two points so if you’ve already been stung by the Bunnies too often, give the visitors a tick.
Match officials: Referees – Steve Lyons & Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials – Daniel Eastwood & Dave Munro; Video Ref – Phil Cooley.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7pm.