Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday night's clash with the reigning premiers looms as a huge challenge for the underperforming Tigers.
Last week they struggled without their hugely influential skipper Robbie Farah against the Titans, and this week they take another hit losing meter-eater Aaron Woods to Origin duty.
Sitting in 13th position on the ladder at the halfway mark of the season, the Tigers will have to dip deep to give themselves a chance of finals footy this year.
That mission starts against a Rabbitohs team that showed great form in Perth last weekend against the Warriors to claim their third straight win.
Alex Johnston had a brilliant performance coming up against Manu 'the Beast' Vatuvei in the 36-4 victory, and will step back into his favoured fullback position for this one with Greg Inglis on Origin duty.
In other team changes, Issac Luke is out with a medial ligament injury for the Bunnies, meaning Cameron McInnes slots into hooker, while John Olive makes his NRL debut on the wing.
In big news for the Tigers, who have now lost four straight, strike weapons David Nofoaluma and Tim Simona return from injury. They push Delouise Hoeter and Nathan Milone out of the team while Keith Galloway starts at prop and Matt Lodge returns on the bench.
Watch Out Tigers: Chris Grevsmuhl has had a huge impact coming off the interchange for the Rabbitohs this year. He's established himself as a try-scoring threat in the last few weeks as well, scoring three times in the past fortnight. Wests' new-look second-row combination of Kyle Lovett and Chris Lawrence will have to muscle up close to the line with Grevsmuhl looking for the short ball on the edge.
Watch out Rabbitohs: Tim Simona and David Nofoaluma return to a struggling Tigers backline just in time for the Tigers. Both are dynamic outside backs that should add strike power to an outfit that's been struggling for points. There isn't a lot to be excited about in this Tigers team at the moment but the return of these two might just be the catalyst for a change of fortunes.
Key Match-Up: Luke Brooks v Luke Keary. Two young Lukes go head-to-head in the game's most important position in a massive halfback match-up on Friday night. Both have a lot to learn in their position but both can also turn the game on its head. If the Tigers are to have any chance in this one, Brooks will have to thoroughly outplay his opposite number. And will have to aim up in defence against the Bunnies' edge runners.
The History: Played 25; Tigers 10, Rabbitohs 15. The Rabbitohs beat the Tigers 20-6 the last time these two met in Round 3. A two-try effort from Dylan Walker, who played with a broken hand, inspired Souths to victory.
What Are The Odds: More than twice as much money has been invested on the Rabbitohs in head-to-head betting in this one but in margin betting, 90 per cent of the money has gone on the Bunnies to win 13+ with Sportsbet. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee – Matt Cecchin; Assistant Referee – Grant Atkins; Touch Judges – Jeff Younis & Rick MacFarlane; Video Referees – Steve Chiddy & Steve Folkes.
Televised: Channel 9, Live 7:30pm
The Way We See It: The Tigers have had a disappointing season to date and will struggle again this week without the all-important Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods. The Rabbitohs should be far too good in this one, we'll tip them by 12 points.