South Sydney Rabbitohs v Sydney Roosters
Strap yourselves in ladies and gentleman, this one is going to be an absolute beauty.
Clashes between the Rabbitohs and Roosters always have that little bit of extra feeling in them and despite both teams losing key players this year they were still arguably the most impressive sides in last week's opening round of the season. The Rabbitohs absolutely decimated the Broncos last weekend while the Cowboys had zero answers to the might of the Roosters.
The Rabbitohs are on an absolute high at the moment. Gone is the bash em' barging game plan and with it has emerged a more calculated, measured approach under the guidance of halfback Adam Reynolds. They've swept all before them in the pre-season, including Auckland Nines and World Club Challenge trophies. But in the Roosters, they have their biggest test yet.
Consistent on the field, both teams are looking equally consistent off it with rival coaches Michael Maguire and Trent Robinson naming unchanged line-ups as they settle in to do battle for the Ron Coote Cup.
Watch out Rabbitohs: With a club-record 302 games at the Roosters, Anthony Minichiello was one of the brightest stars of the Roosters in the club's history. But with Mini now retired, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's journey in the No.1 jumper has begun. Against the Cowboys, Tuivasa-Sheck was an absolute star and is sure to keep the Rabbitohs on their toes. He's still learning in the new role but the 21-year-old is already thriving in attack, setting up a try for Boyd Cordner and producing 216 metres and two line breaks last weekend.
Watch out Roosters: With Sam Burgess and Ben Te'o gone, the Rabbitohs are no longer going all kamikaze on their opponents all of the time. In fact with ball-playing back-rowers Glenn Stewart and John Sutton on the books, the Rabbitohs have two men who can equally force their way through the defensive line or throw a brilliant cut-out to the wing. The Bunnies are sure to test out the Roosters defence on the fringes and the likes of Blake Ferguson and Boyd Cordner will need to be wary in defence.
Key Match-Up: Adam Reynolds v Mitchell Pearce. It's fair to say Reynolds currently has the ball on a string in terms of both his goal kicking and last-tackle options – everything seems to be coming off for the reigning premiership-winning halfback. His defensive mettle isn't anything to shrug off either, but don't be surprised to see Roosters skipper Pearce direct traffic down Reynolds's way. Pearce began life as leader of his team in fine style last weekend, overshadowing reigning Dally M winner Johnathan Thurston with two try assists, and he'll look to repeat the effort against his highly-rated South Sydney counterpart.
The History: Played 210; Rabbitohs 109, Roosters 96, Drawn 5. The last time these two teams met was in the 2014 preliminary finals where Souths won out 32-22 to earn a grand final berth. In what proved to be Minichiello's last game of rugby league, a Greg Inglis double overshadowed the Roosters legend's final moments in the NRL. Only a few weeks earlier the Roosters had beaten Souths 22-18 in Round 26 to claim the JJ Giltinan Shield.
What are the Odds: The Rabbitohs have drifted from $1.67 to $1.81 while the Roosters have shortened from $2.10 to $2 off the back of their dominant win over the Cowboys. In saying that, punters have placed over double the amount of money on the Bunnies in betting this week.
Match Officials: Referee – Matt Cecchin; Assistant Referee – Henry Perenara; Sideline Officials – Russell Turner and Jeff Younis; Video Referees – Bernard Sutton and Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live (3:30pm)
The Way We See It: Will the Rabbitohs' bubble burst any time soon? South Sydney are the height of the powers at the moment after winning the Charity Shield, World Club Challenge and Auckland Nines, but what comes up must come down. South Sydney don't want to be peaking too early this season either so a loss here could be a blessing in disguise. It's a bold prediction but a James Maloney field goal will separate these two teams.