Schick Hydro Preview: South Sydney Rabbitohs v Brisbane Broncos
Two of the NRL's most supported clubs will face off on Friday night at ANZ Stadium, but that is where their similarities end as one team struggles to keep in touch with the top eight and the other continues to rise up the Telstra Premiership ladder.
The Brisbane Broncos are flying after securing their first back-to-back wins of the season, dispatching the highly fancied Sydney Roosters and the gritty Gold Coast Titans in consecutive weeks.
It leaves Wayne Bennett's men in sixth place, but a win could see the Broncos finish Round 8 in the top four – a necessity heading into the State of Origin period.
On the other hand, the South Sydney Rabbitohs are struggling, sitting in 11th after losing three of their last four matches.
The Rabbitohs will see this as a must-win clash as they can ill afford to slip to a 3-5 record after eight weeks of competition.
It's interesting to note that the past five matches between Brisbane and South Sydney have been decided by 20 points or more, so some would say they are due for a close finish.
The Broncos have named Korbin Sims and Sam Thaiday in the starting pack after playing off the bench last week, while Joe Ofahengaue replaces the injured Tevita Pangai Junior on the bench.
There are no changes for South Sydney, although centre Hymel Hunt is an outside chance of returning after being named on the extended bench.
Why the Rabbitohs can win: Sam Burgess was found not guilty at the NRL judiciary when he chose to fight a grade-one shoulder charge on Tuesday night. This was a huge decision that will give Souths belief that they can defeat the Broncos. Burgess would have missed two weeks if he was found guilty and this was something the Rabbitohs could not afford. There is no question that the Englishman is the heart and soul of this team. South Sydney play better when he is on the park and his leadership may just help them get over the line. Burgess will need to at least match his season average of 138m per game because if he doesn't Brisbane's all-star forward pack will find field position easy to come by. Burgess averages 36 tackles a game and his work rate must be at this level if he is to help restrict the Broncos' metreage.
Why the Broncos can win: If Brisbane's close win over the Gold Coast Titans showed anything it's that their new halves pairing knows how to blow a game wide open. Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford are two of the most exciting halves in the game, with their sublime footwork and exceptional agility making them almost impossible to tackle. Nikorima's try in the Broncos' win over the Titans was all about individual skill, stepping and beating a number of Titans to cross untouched and keep his side in the game. Minutes later, Milford intercepted an Ashley Taylor knock-on and went just about the length of the field to score. These two plays took Brisbane from 16-10 down to 20-16 leaders and it was all because of the brilliance of their halves. If they can put together similar plays against a big South Sydney forward pack then the Bunnies will find it hard to keep pace.
Key match-up: Robert Jennings v James Roberts. It might seem a match-up that's out of left field, but this clash has the ability to win or lose the game for the Rabbitohs. 21-year-old Jennings will be the Rabbitoh in charge of shutting down Roberts, a task Titan Dale Copley found to be almost impossible. Roberts scored a hat-trick of tries in that match to take an equal lead at the top of the NRL's leading try-scorer standings. The man known as 'Jimmy the Jet' is high on confidence and Jennings will have to be at his best defensively if he is to shutdown Brisbane's most potent attacking weapon. The Bulldogs scored three tries through their right-side attack in their 24-9 win over the Rabbitohs in Round 7, tearing apart South Sydney's left edge in the process. If young Jennings struggles to contain Roberts then a repeat of this is not out of the question.
 Telstra Premiership: Robert Jennings vs James Roberts
Tries, Tackle Breaks, Line Breaks, All Run Metres.
The history: Played 34; Rabbitohs 9; Broncos 24; Drawn 1. Brisbane have had the wood over South Sydney of late, winning the past three matches between the two sides. The Broncos have scored 30 points or more in all of these matches, with winger Corey Oates scoring four tries in those three games. The teams met twice last year and Brisbane won both meetings by an average of 21 points. The last time these two sides played at ANZ Stadium was in Round 23 of the 2014 season – the Rabbitohs' premiership year. South Sydney won that game 42-16 in a dominant display.
What are the odds: Brisbane have been the best-backed team of the round with Sportsbet receiving 95 per cent of bets on the Broncos to beat the Rabbitohs. Brisbane 13+ is holding more money than all of the other winning margin options combined. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein; Assistant Referee: Chris Butler; Touch Judges: Jason Walsh & Dave Ryan; Review Official: Ben Galea; Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7.30PM; Fox League – Live coverage from 7.30PM.
NRL.com predicts: The Broncos will make it three wins in a row on Friday and they should do it easily. Brisbane appears to have too much class across the park and their attacking weapons far outweigh what South Sydney can bring to the table. The Broncos are a team on the rise and a team of their quality should put away teams like that of the Rabbitohs. Brisbane by 14.