Sharks v Rabbitohs Final preview
Cronulla Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs preview
It's a tale of a team with no Premierships taking on the most successful club in the game's history, but the Sharks come into this clash with no injuries while South Sydney are limping into the finals.
In Cronulla you have a full strength team - with Andrew Fifita named to return from suspension - which has had their ups and downs leading into the finals – no down being bigger than their 14-12 loss to the Sea Eagles last Sunday that cost them a spot in the top 4.
But really that's the tip of the iceberg for their opponents South Sydney who enter the finals on the back of three-straight losses and with no George Burgess, John Sutton and Issac Luke available.
Their starts have been abysmal with two 22-0 deficits against the Bulldogs and Broncos before being shut out 30-0 by the minor premiers Roosters in recent weeks.
They will however welcome back Greg Inglis at fullback with Alex Johnston returning to the wing in place of Joel Reddy, while Dave Tyrrell comes into at prop for Burgess.
Cronulla will be boosted by return of Fifita and Ben Barba on their bench – at the expense of Matt Prior and Tinirau Arona – for what is Jayson Bukuya's 100th NRL game.
Watch out Sharks: Inglis has confirmed his status as an absolute certainty to play the Sharks. The captain's return should offer a huge boost, and it will allow Alex Johnston and Dylan Walker – who have replaced Inglis over the past fortnight – to return to the roles they have been developing all season long.
Watch out Rabbitohs: Fifita is back on the bench and surely keen to rip and tear into the weakened Rabbitohs pack. While his six week suspension was born from shameful reasons, his return nonetheless couldn't be timelier, he's averaged 170 metres and 30.4 tackles per game.
Key Match-Up: Jeff Robson v Adam Reynolds. The reason why this key match-up is so vital is because both men need to stand up and be counted. Sure it's hard to command the ball away from Michael Ennis and Paul Gallen but that's exactly what Sharks' halfback Robson needs to do. For a playmaker to appear in every game this year and only produce five try assists shows how much the team relies on Ennis specifically. His Rabbitoh counterpart is a completely different prospect. After a huge start to the season Reynolds has since had an injury-ravaged year and hasn't returned to his early-season form. His nine try assists aren't the worst but without Sutton, Luke and Burgess about he needs to take more responsibility.
The History: Played 83; Sharks 43, Rabbitohs 37, Drawn 3. Since 2011 the Sharks and Rabbitohs have been trading wins. Currently at four wins and four losses each in this time, Cronulla's 18-10 victory in the infamous Sharknado game back in Round 7 means history suggests a South Sydney win.
What are the Odds: Sportsbet punters can't decide who'll win this game with money split 50-50 between the two sides in the head-to-head market. Both sides have been backed to win by 1-12 but Valentine Holmes is the one they want from a first try scorer perspective. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin. Assistant Referee: Ashley Klein. Sideline Officials: Steve Carrall and Adam Reid. Video Referees: Shayne Hayne and Henry Perenara.
Televised: Channel Nine (Live) – 3:30pm
The Way We See It: Considering the Rabbitohs' recent form and who they are missing you have to think the Sharks will be too good. With Fifita back in the mix they are a completely healthy team going up against another who is missing three key forwards. Sharks by 10 points.