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Saifiti interprets Burgess decision as sign of respect

For most of the recent history between the two clubs, South Sydney skipper Sam Burgess could have sat out a game against Newcastle and the Rabbitohs would have still saluted.


Nine straight wins in the past eight years by an average margin of 35-12 tends to build such confidence.

But Newcastle prop Daniel Saifiti believes Burgess has tipped his hat to the much-improved Knights by delaying shoulder surgery until after the Bunnies’ game against them at ANZ Stadium on Friday.

Factoring in the league-wide break for the representative round from June 21-23, and their Round 16 bye a fortnight later, Burgess hopes to miss only two games for Souths – against the Panthers on June 15 and Wests Tigers on June 27 – then return against Manly on July 13.

“I was just thinking about that. Other teams rested players against us and these guys are putting their best players against us, so I definitely take it as a sign of respect,” Saifiti said on Tuesday.

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“It shows how far we’ve come over the last few years.”

Saifiti rated Burgess “the best forward in the world” and the leader of a pack that has run roughshod over the Knights since 2011.

Burgess has a perfect 6-0 record against Newcastle since arriving from England in 2010.

That is in stark contrast to Saifiti’s 0-4 return against Souths since his NRL debut in 2016, when he sometimes felt like he was playing in a team of boys against men.

“That’s probably the best way to describe it,” Saifiti said.

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“We had a young pack, with 20-year-olds coming through and learning the ropes, but a few years later now, we have a forward pack Newcastle will hopefully be proud of.

“The Burgess boys, best forwards in the world, and it’s definitely a good test for us.

“They’re playing good footy and we’ll have to play good to match them, for sure.

“Last year we had a good team and we matched them for a bit but we had a few injuries and stuff so it didn’t work out, but this year we have a class team, so it’s definitely different, that’s for sure.”

For the first time this season, the Knights are likely to be without NSW pack leader David Klemmer and/or Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga, as Newcastle coach Nathan Brown is likely to rest them after the Origin series-opener.

Saifiti believes the Knights are better equipped to cover the absence of players of that calibre than they would have been in the past few years.

“It will be different. He [Klemmer] is our forward leader, and he gets us on the front foot, but if he doesn’t play, I’m sure our forwards can do a good job and get the team going forward too,” he said.

“Before ‘Klem’ was here, I was playing long minutes, and if I have to play long minutes for the team, I’ll do it for sure.

“I wouldn’t say it’s added pressure. Jimmy Gavet, Sione [Mata’utia], Herman [Ese’ese], they’re playing great footy too … so if Klem doesn’t play, we’re all playing good footy this year and I’m confident the boys can do a good job.”

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Saifiti did not expect the bye last weekend to halt the momentum Newcastle built during their five-game winning streak, which included a last-start 38-12 victory over the Roosters.

“Some people might say it came at a bad time because we wanted to keep playing footy but I think it was a good thing,” he said.

“All the boys are rejuvenated and happy to be back at training.”

Contracted until the end of 2020, the 23-year-old Fijian international wants to sign a long-term deal to remain in Newcastle for the foreseeable future, and said his manager has had discussions with Knights officials to try to achieve that outcome.

“Hopefully they want to keep me,” he said.

“I think they want to keep me – and I think they know I want to stay here – so it should be done sooner rather than later.”

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