Adam Doueihi faces a daunting task up against in-form halfback Nathan Cleary in his Telstra Premiership debut but South Sydney Rabbitohs teammate Angus Crichton said the Lebanon international had earned his chance.
The 19-year-old gave Rabbitohs fans a glimpse of his promising talent when filling in for Adam Reynolds in the pre-season trials, playing the full 80 minutes in both matches.
Reynolds is again sidelined with a knee injury suffered in last Saturday's loss to the Warriors in Perth, paving the way for Doueihi to make his NRL debut.
Doueihi will start alongside Cody Walker in the halves and Crichton believes he is more than equipped for the challenge of taking on a strong Penrith Panthers side in 36-degree heat.
"I think he’s ready for it," he said.
"Last season, I wouldn’t have said the same thing but this pre-season with Reyno being out for that extended period over the trials, he had two trials where he played 80 minutes and trained every session every week the whole pre-season when Reyno was in rehab so like I said, he’s not going into this underdone.
"I think we’ve had enough time together and built a pretty strong combination so I’m not worried at all. I know that he’ll do his job and I’m backing him 100%.
“He’s pretty big and he can run so that’s the thing - if the play breaks down, he has the ability to take it forward. He’s a smart guy, got a really tight kicking game and I think he’ll steer us around the park.
“He’s not going to be trying to do anything too outside of the box in his first game.”
The Rabbitohs will also have to handle Panthers powerhouse Viliame Kikau, who put in an impressive performance in last week’s comeback win over the Parramatta Eels.
"I can’t wait, that just makes the game more juicier, I think. Match-ups like that is why we play,” he said.
"Obviously, Panthers fans are backing him so myself and Doui have a big job on our hands and I can’t wait to rip into him. He came off the bench last week so I guess we will see how he goes playing 80 [minutes].
“Today at training, he [Doueihi] impressed me. George Burgess was up there steaming right in front of him and he got his body in front and did the job.
"George Burgess has got five kilos on Kikau so if he can tackle, Georgie he can tackle him."
After conceding six tries against a surprisingly cohesive Warriors side, the second-rower has pinpointed his defensive efforts as the main focus going into round two against the Panthers.
"I think that what we lacked last week was our defence so for me personally with a new half outside me, my biggest focus this weekend is defensively, I want to be strong," Crichton said.
"I feel like it’s a chance for us to not only redeem ourselves but a chance for us to go out there and do what we know we are capable of.”