Rabbitohs v Cowboys: Scott out, stars back for Rabbitohs
It was about six weeks ago that the Rabbitohs got out of jail with a late penalty goal to snatch an after-the-siren win against the Cowboys in Townsville.
The Bunnies have added four more wins to the tally without loss since that meeting, while the 13th-placed Cowboys haven't done anything other than quietly fade from top eight calculations.
South's seven-game winning streak is the club's longest in 24 years and has them well placed to capture their first minor premiership since 1989. Coach Anthony Seibold has to check the fitness of a large group of rep players this week before deciding who will make the long trip to Cairns to face the Cowboys on Sunday.
Not only are the Cows out of finals contention, they have a battle on their hands to avoid the wooden spoon, which would be a most inglorious send-off for retiring legend Johnathan Thurston.
JT deserves much better and will be driving his team to stay professional and committed to finishing the season strongly. Upsetting the Rabbitohs would be a good place to start.
Key match-up: Jason Taumalolo can certainly hold his head high as one of the best performers in a poor team and the Tongan international faces a brutal battle with the Burgess brothers, particularly Sam, one of the world's best forwards alongside Taumalolo. Both will be looking to get a solid shot or two in and Burgess has to make sure he doesn't overstep the mark.
For the Rabbitohs to win: Can't afford to get away to slow starts like they did a couple of weeks ago against Parra, even though they dominated the second half. The Bunnies need to lay a strong platform up front and their lethal back-line should do the rest.
For the Cowboys to win: If the Cowboys forwards can hold their own against the big Souths pack they are definitely a chance of causing an upset. They should've beaten the Bunnies in round 11 and should use that as motivation. And of course any team with Thurston is always a chance.
Rabbitohs Stat Attack: Still on a roll - the Bunnies are aiming for eight consecutive wins on Sunday for the first time since 1989.
Cowboys Stat Attack: Two milestones for North Queensland in Cairns - second-rower Gavin Cooper is set to play his 200th game for the Cowboys and the club will be aiming to notch their 250th win since joining the comp in 1995.
And another thing: This game is being played in Cairns but it won't come as a surprise if the Rabbitohs have more supporters in their corner than North Queensland. The Rabbitohs are one of the most followed sporting clubs in Australia and always manage to draw fans out of the woodwork wherever they go.
Match: Rabbitohs vs Cowboys
Round 16 -
Venue: Barlow Park
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
South Sydney Rabbitohs v North Queensland Cowboys, Sunday 4.10pm at Barlow Park, Cairns
Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 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
The Rabbitohs will start 1-17 after Hymel Hunt and Mark Nicholls were dropped from the bench an hour out from kick-off. South Sydney have named all their rep players to back up, including the three Burgess brothers who played in Denver. Campbell Graham replaces Hymel Hunt on the wing in their only change. Mark Nicholls and Tyrell Fuimaono were omitted on Saturday.
Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Enari Tuala, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Te Maire Martin, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 16 Corey Jensen, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo
Interchange: 14 Ben Hampton, 15 Shaun Fensom, 17 Francis Molo, 21 Shane Wright
Matt Scott will miss another week with a neck complaint. Justin O'Neill, Ethan Lowe and Javid Bowen were the players dropped from the squad an hour before kick-off. Lachlan Coote is recalled at fullback for Michael Morgan (biceps, season). Antonio Winterstein is recalled on the wing for Javid Bowen (reserves). Mitchell Dunn and Gideon Gela-Mosby were cut from the reserves 24 hours out from kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 33; Cowboys 17 wins, Rabbitohs 15 wins
Matches at venue: Played 2; Cowboys 2 wins
Previous result: Rabbitohs won 20-19 at 1300Smiles Stadium in round 11
Points per game: Rabbitohs 25.3; Cowboys 16.2
Points conceded per game: Rabbitohs 17.3; Cowboys 20.3
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Steve Turner's prediction: The Rabbitohs are genuine title contenders in 2018. Their attack is the best in the competition and a lot of it is generated down their left side. Anthony Seibold has change the way they play this year and they have benefited from a fit and healthy spine. The Cowboys have been disappointing! Their attack looks slow at times and very predictable. An injured Michael Morgan doesn't help, but the JT's can't always be the ones to get them out of trouble. You can never write the Cowboys off, but it's just been one of those years for the 2017 grand finalist. Tip: Rabbitohs by 10