They do say South Sydney have a never-say-die spirit – and this has never been more apparent than when they pulled off a miraculous 90th-minute win over the Wests Tigers last week to keep their finals hopes alive.
Now they must find a way to continue winning, despite more injury woes – and they must do so in a city where they have never won before.
The Rabbitohs travel to Melbourne to take on a side with nothing to lose, while they themselves have everything to lose.
Sitting in ninth place on the ladder their chances are precarious to say the least but with teams six, seven and eight in a position to possibly lose this weekend, a Rabbitohs victory could get them as high as sixth – and from there it would be totally up to them.
Melbourne looked jaded and at times disinterested against the Sea Eagles last weekend; Souths fans will be hoping for more of the same.
But, the Storm are a different unit in front of their fans, who they feel they owe a great deal. Plus, the contract dramas surrounding the likes of Greg Inglis and Brett White are finally over and the side can go about sending the boys away on a high.
They might have been held to just six points by Manly but the side haven’t been held to single figures in back-to-back weeks since June 2000, so don’t expect it again.
Winger William Isa is out this week, with Dane Nielsen returning at centre and Chase Stanley shifting to the wing. Aiden Tolman is named to start at prop, pushing Jeff Lima to the reserves list, while Jesse Bromwich and Todd Lowrie have been added to a six-man bench.
The Rabbitohs lost Ben Lowe for the year in the lead-up to last week’s match and then John Sutton against the Tigers – but centres Beau Champion and Colin Best return, as do gun forwards Sam Burgess and Michael Crocker.
With the two centres back, three-try match-winning hero Dylan Farrell moves to the bench and Jamie Simpson is out. Luke Capewell comes in at five-eighth for Sutton while Burgess is back at lock in place of Jason Clark.
Crocker takes a spot on the bench with Garrett Crossman and Shaune Corrigan missing out.
Rhys Wesser is set to play his 200th NRL match.
Watch out Storm: The Rabbitohs might have had their forward pack damaged by injuries but they are still rolling forward at an impressive rate and therefore are picking up pretty good field position in matches.
The Rabbitohs average 1399 metres gained a match this year, a huge increase on the 1224 metres a game the Storm boasts. South Sydney need to maintain these sort of numbers if they are to get enough chances with their new halves pairing.
Melbourne barely got into the Sea Eagles’ territory last weekend, and it showed, but what we also saw was when they did, they knew how to score. The Rabbitohs must keep them away from their line.
Watch out Rabbitohs: A little birdie told nrl.com the Storm boys are primed for this encounter. After an emotional meeting during the week where Greg Inglis and Brett White announced their departures for next season, the side talked about finishing on a high and building a base for the new breed to come in and continue the proud culture the side has set up.
They know they can’t play finals football but they can keep certain things intact, and one of those talked about was their domination over South Sydney.
They know the Rabbitohs love the tradition in their club and how they feed off the pride of those before them. But this Storm side is about restoring pride in their jersey, and keeping legacies like the whitewash over the red and green in Melbourne. They were flat against the Sea Eagles, but they won’t be here.
The side also is aware their point-scoring efforts help charity and after just six against the Sea Eagles, they are gunning for much more ‘moolah’ this time around.
Where it will be won: This match will come down to the influence of the halves and hookers, which puts plenty of pressure on Chris Sandow, Issac Luke and Luke Capewell from the Bunnies. Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith are old hats at this caper by now and have the confidence to take a game by the scruff of the neck.
The Rabbitohs’ guys, on the other hand, certainly have youth and skill on their side, but also the tendency to implode. It is a serious test for the Bunnies trio – we know they can win games, but can they win pressure games, when the reliance on them is immense? Can Sandow make the correct decisions in attack? Can Luke outpoint the best hooker in the world? Can Capewell slot in seamlessly, even though he is returning from injuries himself and is not a regular first grader? The game, and perhaps the Rabbitohs season, depends on them doing so.
The history: Played 16; Storm 13, Rabbitohs 3. South Sydney finally got one back over the Storm in Perth earlier this season to stop an eight-game losing streak against Melbourne but the numbers don’t lie – the Rabbitohs are the Storm’s bunnies.
The two teams have never met at this venue but the Rabbitohs have yet to beat the Storm in Melbourne at any venue. The only Rabbitoh with any sort of success in the bleak city is former Storm star Michael Crocker!
Conclusion: They were gutsy against the Tigers and have some good players coming back so the Rabbitohs should have some confidence.
The Storm were poor against Manly and have very little to play for. But one still gets the feeling the Melbourne boys will probably sneak away with a win here.
The pressure surrounding the Rabbitohs and the lack of support in the bleak city is just the type of situation the likes of Smith, Inglis, Slater and Cronk love to exploit. They revel in the misfortune of others on the field and the stench of rabbit carcass is already wafting.
Here’s hoping we’re wrong, as Souths in the finals mix for longer is the better scenario for most fans.
Match officials: Referees – Steve Lyons & Chris James; Sideline Officials – Luke Potter & Grant Atkins; Video Ref – Phil Cooley.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm.