Despite being without Origin quartet Greg Inglis, Dane Gagai, Angus Crichton and Damien Cook for last week's road duel with the Titans, the Rabbitohs barely skipped a beat, chalking up their sixth straight win to remain on track for a top four finish.
It was closer than the Bunnies would've liked but they would've filed it under the "a win's a win" category. Of all the teams in the top eight, the Bunnies might have the most enviable run to the finals. They play the Eels twice, including Thursday's round 15 clash at ANZ Stadium.
While they weren't overly convincing against the Titans, they still took care of a team that is bound to spring an upset or two over the second half of the regular season – and they did so without four of their best players. But they can't underestimate the Eels, who produced one of their best efforts of the season to upset the Cowboys.
Last-placed Parra relieved a little pressure by beating the Cows but it was just their third win in 14 games. The Eels should have an extra spring in their step this week but will have to raise the bar a lot higher to overcome Souths.
Key match-up: They didn't get to face off in Origin I but Jarryd Hayne and Greg Inglis still rate as two of the game's biggest drawcards. Inglis was superb as captain of a losing Maroons side and will be itching to get back on the field after being rested for the Rabbitohs' win over Gold Coast. Hayne returned with a bang last week after missing six weeks through injury, scoring two tries in Parra's 20-14 upset of the Cowboys. Inglis and Hayne are expected to line up opposite each other in the centres.
For the Eels to win: For the first time in a long time the Eels looked like a confident, competent team last week against the Cows. It was far from a five-star display, but they should make a team pact to play with the same commitment to each other for the rest of the season. They have to follow Hayne's lead, muscle up in the forwards against the big Rabbitohs pack and also need Clint Gutherson to play as well as he did against the Cowboys.
For the Rabbitohs to win: Most wake-up calls come in the form of losses. Last week the Rabbitohs got a timely wake-up call but still managed to win. They get their four Origin guns back this week and should be in the mood to show the Eels they are out of their depth. Souths have an edge up front and out wide and will be looking to exploit both.
Eels Stat Attack: The Eels will have some extra motivation this week with Michael Jennings set to play his 250th NRL game. In 2007 Jennings made his debut for the Panthers in their round two thrashing over the Bulldogs and bagged his first NRL try.
Rabbitohs Stat Attack: Anthony Seibold has made the Bunnies look unstoppable, with the club aiming for seven straight wins for the first time since 1994.
And another thing: Was it just a coincidence the Eels got a win without Mitch Moses? Some Parra fans thought not. No-one questions Moses's talent as a footballer but, rightly or wrongly, doubts linger over his ability to control the Eels' attack and direct them around the park. If the Eels manage to win again in his absence, Moses might not walk straight back into first grade when he recovers from a knee injury.
Match: Eels v Rabbitohs
Round 15 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs, Thursday 7.50pm at ANZ Stadium
Eels: 1 Bevan French, 2 Josh Hoffman, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Jarryd Hayne, 5 George Jennings, 6 Clint Gutherson (c), 7 Corey Norman, 8 Daniel Alvaro, 9 Cameron King, 15 Tim Mannah (c), 11 Manu Ma'u, 12 Brad Takairangi, 13 Nathan Brown
Interchange: 14 Reed Mahoney, 10 Peni Terepo, 16 David Gower, 17 Marata Niukore
Mitchell Moses won't return from a knee injury to face South Sydney after he and Siosaia Vave were the two players dropped from the squad an hour out from kick-off. In one late change, Tim Mannah will start the match, with Peni Terepo dropping back to the bench. Manu Ma'u returns to the starting side after missing last weekend's trip to Darwin and Marata Niukore goes back to the bench. Reed Mahony retains his place in the 17 after an impressive debut against the Cowboys. Suaia Matagi and Jaeman Salmon were the two players dropped from the squad 24 hours out from kick-off.
Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 19 Hymel Hunt, 3 Greg Inglis (c), 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Robert Jennings, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Thomas Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess
Interchange: 14 Adam Doueihi, 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Tevita Tatola
Winger Campbell Graham was left out of the Rabbitohs squad 24 hours out from kick-off, with his spot in the starting side being taken by Hymel Hunt (No.19). Origin stars Greg Inglis, Dane Gagai, Damien Cook and Angus Crichton return, with Cameron Murray and Adam Doueihi moving back to the bench. After Graham and Robbie Farah were the two men left out of the squad 24 hours before game time, Mark Nicholls and Tyrell Fuimaono were omitted an hour out from game time.
Head-to-head: Played 124; Rabbitohs 67 wins, Eels 54 wins, 3 draws
Matches at venue: Played 15; Rabbitohs 9 wins, Eels 5 wins, 1 draw
2017 results: Eels won 22-16 at ANZ Stadium in round 12, Eels won 22-16 at ANZ Stadium in round 26
Points per game: Eels 13.9; Rabbitohs 24.1
Points conceded per game: Eels 22.3; Rabbitohs 16.8
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League