Schick Hydro Preview: Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles
It wasn't so long ago that these sides met in Week One of the 2014 finals series in a top-four showdown at Allianz Stadium.
The Rabbitohs emerged 16-point victors and went on to lift the trophy on grand final night, but a lot has changed since then.
Had the Parramatta Eels not been stripped of 12 competition points, this contest would have been between two bottom-four teams with virtually no chance of playing finals footy.
But where there is life, there is hope, and a win for either team will keep their slim hopes of making the top eight alive.
The Bunnies have dropped six straight and must win their remaining seven matches if they want to play finals footy for the fifth straight season.
The equation is slightly better for Manly, with the Sea Eagles requiring six more wins to finish on 28 competition points. They have been in good form of late with back-to-back wins, and will fancy their chances to make it five straight with matches against three sides below them on the ladder over the next three weeks.
The Rabbitohs have received a huge boost with halfback Adam Reynolds set to return from the quad injury that saw him miss the loss to the Broncos. He'll be joined by Bryson Goodwin in what shapes as his first game since Round 14. John Sutton reverts to the back row with Nathan Brown shifting to the bench.
Maroons prop Nate Myles will make his NRL return via the interchange bench, while Brayden Wiliame replaces Brad Parker at centre for the Sea Eagles.
Watch out Rabbitohs: Defence has long been the cornerstone of Michael Maguire's men, but the 2014 premiers have been leaking points at a rapid rate this season. From having the best defensive record two years ago, the Rabbitohs now have the fourth-worst, conceding 410 points through 17 matches. They have allowed 20 or more points in each of their last 11 games after giving up just four tries in the first three rounds.
Watch out Sea Eagles: It might have taken him until he was 26 to make his NRL debut, but Cody Walker is playing like a five-year veteran for the Bunnies in 2016. Splitting his time between the halves and fullback, Walker has established himself in the No.1 jersey in recent weeks, running for 194 metres and breaking the line twice last week against the Broncos. He has five tries this year and has been one of the real shining lights for South Sydney in an otherwise disappointing campaign.
Key match-up: Martin Taupau v Sam Burgess. They might not line up opposite each other on Monday night, but expect fireworks when these two hombres collide in the middle of Allianz Stadium. Taupau has taken it upon himself in recent times to bash and bully the Burgess boys, and there is no bigger target than the South Sydney lock. Sam Burgess loves a challenge and won't shy away from what should be a showdown of epic proportions.
The history: Played 137; Rabbitohs 63, Sea Eagles 74. The Rabbitohs have managed to win four of the past five meetings between the sides, including a 16-12 victory at Brookvale Oval earlier this year. Souths raced out to a 16-0 lead inside 20 minutes and defended their way from there to scrape home by four points. This is the first time the sides have met at Allianz Stadium since the 2014 finals where South Sydney turned a 22-0 half-time lead into a 40-24 rout.
What are the odds: Manly have been backed into favouritism thanks to 90 per cent of money being bet on them according to Sportsbet. Sea Eagles 1-12 is the most popular option in the winning margin market. Latest odds at Sportsbet.
Match officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant referee: Chris Butler. Sideline officials: Belinda Sleeman and Chris Sutton.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 6:30pm.
The way we see it: There's a lot to like about what the Sea Eagles are building towards, and with the bulk of their squad back to full fitness, look primed to make a late charge towards the finals. The Rabbitohs have played well in patches over the past few weeks but must address their rapidly-growing error count if they are to leave Moore Park with the win. Sea Eagles by 8.