Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has confirmed playmaker Aidan Sezer will miss the clash with South Sydney after failing to overcome a hamstring complaint.
Sezer was a late withdrawal before the Raiders' upset 14-12 win over the Sydney Roosters last round, with Blake Austin and Sam Williams pairing up in the halved for the morale-boosting victory .
Stuart said Sezer's absence was a blow but pointed to another area of the field that will be the key battle as the Raiders attempt to continue their late-season surge when they host Souths on Saturday.
"They're not sitting at the top of the table for no reason, they've been very consistent all year," Stuart said.
"The Burgess boys have really been the leader of the consistency of their game, they're a big pack of powerful forwards.
"The player we really have watch is Damien Cook, he's had a wonderful season, he's a very sharp out of dummy-half and creates all sorts of problems if you don't get the middle of your defence right.
"That area of their game is probably their power."
In all but four of Souths' wins this season, Cook has run for more than 100 metres, including a season-high of 190 in their clash with Melbourne in round 21.
That victory over the Storm was the Rabbitohs' last as they now look to prevent their mini losing streak reaching three heading into the finals.
Stuart pointed to his own hooking wizard Josh Hodgson, saying he will play a crucial role in the middle of the field if they are not to allow the Souths pack to dominate early.
"You've got to be effective with your defence, anybody laying around the ruck, anybody slow to get back to get back is a target with Cook's explosive running game out of dummy-half," he said.
The blueprint of what not to do this weekend for the Raiders can be found in their performance in round seven when their forwards were steamrolled by the Souths pack in Gosford.
A poor completion rate (69 per cent) allowed Souths to camp in the Raiders half for most of the first 20 minutes, sapping Canberra's energy early in the second half, which saw Souths score three tries in 10 minutes.
Despite a frustrating season, the Green Machine showed they could match it with the Telstra Premiership heavyweights last weekend when they showcased a disciplined brand of football to hold out the Roosters.
"It was how we won the game last week that impressed me, I thought we really controlled our game well with the football and I thought that really paid dividends in other areas of our game," Stuart said.
The coach lamented the loss of Joe Tapine to a broken thumb for the rest of Canberra's season, saying his presence on the edge will be missed as they try and finish the year with three wins on the trot.
"He's a big loss, he's probably had his best season this year during his time in Canberra," Stuart said.
Stuart said his second hand operation in the space of 12 months shouldn't prevent him from playing for New Zealand in the end-of-season Tests.