Rabbitohs v Raiders: Schick Preview
Schick Hydro Preview: South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canberra Raiders
It's been nearly 5,000 days since the Raiders were in the Telstra Premiership top four after 20 rounds, and if results go their way they could find themselves in third spot with five matches to go in the 2016 regular season.
Expected by many to be scrapping for eighth at this stage of the year, the Green Machine have proven most people wrong, with a finals spot all but assured should they beat the Rabbitohs this weekend.
It hasn't been an easy ride for their fans, with the Raiders almost snatching defeat from the jaws of victory after nearly blowing a 22-4 lead against the Warriors to eventually win in golden point.
South Sydney's fans would love any sort of win at the moment, with the Rabbitohs currently in the midst of a six-game losing streak that has brought their four-year streak of playing finals footy to an end.
The Rabbitohs have been forced to make a few changes to the side that went down to the Sea Eagles on Monday, with Zane Musgrove in for the suspended Tom Burgess while Joe Burgess has been replaced on the wing by Michael Oldfield.
It's business as usual for the Green Machine who have the luxury of naming the same 17 that survived golden point last week.
Watch out Rabbitohs: Is Jarrod Croker the best centre in the NRL? You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone better at the moment, with the Raiders skipper currently in the form of his life. Croker has scored seven tries in his last four games, including a hat-trick against the Warriors, and is just two points away from reaching 200 for the season.
Watch out Raiders: The Raiders will want to have the two competition points secured heading into the final 20 minutes, which has statistically been their worst defensive period this season. The Green Machine have allowed 20 tries in that timeframe, including three against the Warriors in Round 20. The Rabbitohs, meanwhile, have scored 20 tries in the final quarter of games in 2016, and with nothing to play for will be willing to throw the ball around given the opportunity.
Key match-up: Adam Reynolds v Aidan Sezer. It took 40 minutes for Adam Reynolds to find his feet in his first game for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in almost a month, but once he did, he showed the sort of form that earned him a Blues debut. The Rabbitohs halfback scored a try and set another one up with a pinpoint grubber against the Sea Eagles, and he also bagged a double the last time he faced the Raiders in 2014. Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer has had a fairly quiet season after starting life as a Raider with a double on debut. Sezer ran for just 18 metres against the Warriors, but is a dangerous carrier of the ball when he backs himself. While his running game was subpar, his left foot was on fire last week, setting up a try with an angled grubber and finishing the game with 226 kick metres.
The history: Played 50; Rabbitohs 21, Raiders 29. Souths have won six of the past eight clashes between the sides, with five of those victories by 16 points or more. The Raiders won their only meeting in 2015, overturning a 16-4 half-time deficit to run out 30-22 winners in Cairns.
What are the odds: Canberra are the lock of the round according to Sportsbet customers. Ninety-seven per cent of all money bet on the head-to-head market is with the Raiders and you can expect their price to firm further as we approach kick off. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant referee: Gavin Reynolds. Sideline officials: Russell Turner and Nick Morel.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 1:30pm.
The way we see it: Despite 13 competition points separating the sides this is not a game the Raiders will want to take lightly, especially with matches against the top-two teams in the Telstra Premiership coming up in the next fortnight. Another week in the top four should be motivation enough against a Rabbitohs side that already has one eye on 2017. Raiders by 10.