Burgess, Lima a double threat
Prop Jeff Lima got rave reviews for his performance in South Sydney's Good Friday win over Canterbury, but as far as he's concerned he's not yet back up to speed in the NRL.
Lima says he, just like the Rabbitohs as a team, is a work in progress, and he aims to take further steps in today's game against the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium.
Souths have four wins from four rounds, and are one of only two unbeaten teams. Premiers Melbourne are also yet to taste defeat.
The recent history of the Warriors is starkly different. After losing their past eight games last season, they lost their first three this season before finally returning to the winning list against North Queensland last weekend.
Lima, who played for Wests Tigers in 2004 and then Melbourne for five seasons before spending two years with English club Wigan, has registered some punishing efforts in the early days of his return to the NRL.
He began conservatively, making seven runs for 69 metres, plus nine tackles, in the 28-10 win over Sydney Roosters, and then upped the tempo in the 14-12 win over Cronulla, when he played for 43 minutes and made 18 runs for 158 metres, as well as 16 tackles.
Against Penrith, when the Rabbitohs won 44-32, he played for 38 minutes and made 12 runs for 98 metres, with 20 tackles, and then he took on the highly rated Bulldogs forward pack with gusto. Lima's figures that day were 41 minutes, 20 runs for 154 metres, and 16 tackles.
Those sort of performances would get you a run in any team, but 30-year-old Lima still reckons he's got a bit of catching up to do.
"I'm getting there, it's an improvement," Lima said of his performance against Canterbury. "But I've still got a lot of work to do, to be honest. If you don't see any need for improvement, then you must have done the lot.
"I've got a lot of improvement to make. I've got to catch up to the speed of the game – it's a bit too fast for me at the moment, coming from Wigan back to the NRL. It's a work in progress, but I'm getting there."
Lima played under Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire at Wigan in 2011. Maguire then took over at Souths last year.
Lima saw Maguire's move to the Rabbitohs as an opportunity for him to get back into the NRL as well, and he encouraged the coach to sign him when his contract at Wigan ran out at the end of last year.
Maguire didn't need much encouragement, and his decision to add Lima to the playing squad is just one of many good calls he has made.
Asked why he was attracted to playing under Maguire again, Lima replied: "It's his hard work ethic, and he's straight-forward with you. If he wants you to go back to reserve grade and work on something, you do that, because you know that if you do it you'll be back in the team.
"The culture he has brought to Souths is very strong. And it's obviously working for us. You saw that last year and you can see it this year, and it makes you look forward to the future.
"I wasn't here last year, but as soon as I arrived I saw the culture was built on hard work and doing the little things right. I knew it would be like that from working with him in the past.
"Everyone is keen to work for each other, and to do the hard yards. You might not notice some of that, but it pays off."
Souths are able to bring Lima off the interchange bench and build on the great work being done by their starting forwards, particularly English prop Sam Burgess, whose statistics are fabulous.
Burgess has played three games this season – he missed one through suspension – and made a total of 60 runs for 444 metres. That is an average of 148 metres per game.
He is also churning out a lot of game-time, averaging 64.6 minutes on the field. Burgess played for the full 80 minutes against Canterbury.
"Everything is going well with the team," Lima said. "But I wouldn't say we're comfortable with where we're at. Teams are getting better and better every year, so we have to work hard to keep improving."
Playing on Sunday, the Rabbitohs get to make a statement with victory over the Warriors. They would remain undefeated and rise to the top of the NRL ladder, with Melbourne, the only other undefeated team, taking on the Wests Tigers on Monday.