Rabbitohs v Dragons: De Belin on track, Souths duo cleared
A mammoth crowd is expected at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night when South Sydney and St George Illawarra, who have two of the biggest supporter bases in the NRL, face off in the Telstra Premiership finals.
The Rabbitohs are battered and bruised after their narrow loss to Melbourne to kick off their play-off campaign while the Dragons' stunning win in Brisbane was soured by the loss of skipper Gareth Widdop with a dislocated shoulder.
For the Bunnies, their forward pack will be amped up to cancel out the Dragons with the Burgess brothers - Sam, George and Tom - in red-hot form this season.
St George Illawarra got the better of the Bunnies in their first meeting this year, a 16-12 victory at Kogarah in round five.
The Rabbitohs got their revenge in round 10 with a 24-10 triumph at ANZ Stadium.
Match: Rabbitohs vs Dragons
Finals Week 2 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Key match-up: Damien Cook v Cameron McInnes. The respective dummy-halves have a history and a rivalry - Cook came through the juniors in the Illawarra before making a go of his NRL career at the Rabbitohs while McInnes is a Souths product who has hit his straps the past two years after switching to the Dragons. Cook is an attacking dynamo while McInnes gets through a mountain of defensive work and is always a key performer for the Dragons in getting the playmakers opportunities to get their backs into space.
For the Dragons to win: They can't listen to the outside noise - they were underdogs against Brisbane but played like raging hot favourites. They will be given little chance against Souths, particularly without Widdop, but Paul McGregor won't care about the odds - he will be focused on instilling belief in his players that they can continue to silence their critics.
Rabbitohs Stat Attack: South Sydney are the entertainers of 2018, scoring the most points (610) and tries (103) in the competition. They also engage the line (425) more than any other team. Five-eighth Cody Walker is his team's X-factor, but he needs to reduce his handling errors (20).
Dragons Stat Attack: The Red V lead the standings when it comes to tackle busts (933). Fullback Matt Dufty is electrifying on his day, and with 1270m only sits behind Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Valentine Holmes when it comes to kick return metres. Hooker Cameron McInnes has conceded 29 penalties.
And another thing: The battle of the back-rowers will be a beauty. John Sutton and Angus Crichton are tough as nails, while NSW Blues pair Tariq Sims and Tyson Frizell blitzed the hyped Broncos pack last Sunday at Suncorp Stadium.
Craig Wing's tip: The Storm game was played at a higher level than all the other games and it was there to be won for Souths. I worry it took a bit out of them but they have an extra two days to recover. The Dragons forwards won't be able to roll through the middle as easily as they did against Brisbane and with the Dragons injuries, especially to Gareth Widdop, it makes things a whole lot more difficult. Rabbitohs by 12.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v St George Illawarra Dragons, ANZ Stadium, 7.50pm on Saturday
Fullback for Rabbitohs is number 1 Alex JohnstonFullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew Dufty
Winger for Rabbitohs is number 2 Campbell GrahamWinger for Dragons is number 2 Nene Macdonald
Centre for Rabbitohs is number 3 Greg InglisCentre for Dragons is number 3 Zac Lomax
Centre for Rabbitohs is number 4 Dane GagaiCentre for Dragons is number 4 Timoteo Lafai
Winger for Rabbitohs is number 5 Robert JenningsWinger for Dragons is number 5 Jordan Pereira
Five-Eighth for Rabbitohs is number 6 Cody WalkerFive-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Kurt Mann
Halfback for Rabbitohs is number 7 Adam ReynoldsHalfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben Hunt
Prop for Rabbitohs is number 8 Thomas BurgessProp for Dragons is number 8 James Graham
Hooker for Rabbitohs is number 9 Damien CookHooker for Dragons is number 9 Cameron McInnes
Prop for Rabbitohs is number 10 George BurgessProp for Dragons is number 10 Leeson Ah Mau
2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 11 John Sutton2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell
2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 12 Angus Crichton2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims
Lock for Rabbitohs is number 13 Sam BurgessLock for Dragons is number 13 Jack de Belin
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 14 Hymel HuntInterchange for Dragons is number 14 Jeremy Latimore
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 15 Cameron MurrayInterchange for Dragons is number 16 Blake Lawrie
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 16 Jason ClarkInterchange for Dragons is number 17 Luciano Leilua
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 17 Dean BrittInterchange for Dragons is number 19 Jai Field
Rabbitohs: South Sydney are 1-17 and retain the same line-up after last week's loss to Melbourne.
Dragons: Jai Field replaces Hame Sele on the bench in a late change. Zac Lomax starts over Euan Aitken in the centres.
Head-to-head in NRL era: Played 30; Dragons 17 wins, Rabbitohs 13 wins
Previous result: Rabbitohs won 24-10 at ANZ Stadium in round 10
Points per game (regular season): Rabbitohs 24.3 (1st); Dragons 21.6 (7th)
Points conceded per game (regular season): Rabbitohs 18.2 (4th); Dragons 19.7 (8th)
Televised:Live on Nine, Fox League
Experience the excitement of Finals footy this weekend. Get your tickets to week 2 of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series