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'On notice': Bennett ensures Bunnies aren't buying into hype

Wayne Bennett has a favourite saying to keep the Rabbitohs from getting too far ahead of themselves.

"If you pat yourself on the back too much, it's not long before you'll fall asleep," centre Dane Gagai recounts.

After a season-opening 26-18 loss to the Storm, the coach wasn't pleased with South Sydney's attitude and said there'd be "no hype" around the title heavyweights against Manly this Saturday.

And he made a statement by dropping two recruits - veteran winger Josh Mansour and second-rower Jacob Host - to the NSW Cup.

"The beauty of the squad here is he can do that. He can put everyone on notice," said forward Jai Arrow, who admitted he was a little surprised that Bennett had pulled out the axe so early.

"You have a couple of bad weeks and he can replace you with a quality player," the star signing added. "He's the coach, it's his decision and he's definitely put everyone on notice."

Gagai was confident that Mansour, who joined the Rabbitohs after 158 matches for the Panthers, would return stronger.

The key to defending on the edge

"It's one of those tough things, but he's a great team player and a great bloke," Gagai said of the 30-year-old.

"He always brings energy and keeps the group up ... I'm sure he'll bounce back from this, but it's about us doing our jobs and I'll be focusing on what I can do to help us get the win this week."

While Bennett accused some Rabbitohs players of looking for an "easy night" in Melbourne after thrashing St George Illawarra in the Charity Shield trial, he liked what he saw in Arrow's club debut.

The former Titans lock, who was a standout performer on the VB Hard Earned index, started on the interchange but still produced 176 metres and 29 tackles in 45 minutes against the premiers.

Arrow has again been named in jersey 17 to face the Sea Eagles.

"Wayne, I think he likes me coming off the bench, especially in Origins as well," the 25-year-old Queensland rep said.

"I thought I brought a lot of energy and a little bit of mongrel and fire off the bench. He obviously likes me there and sees something there, so I'm happy to come off [the bench] and do my job.

"It's a bit of a cliche, but as a bench player, you want to come on and change the game. You don't want to come on and flatline it or let the momentum roll over to them... I have that mindset no matter [what]."

Gagai has his sights set on making 2021 grand final

Having endured a "long wait" to represent South Sydney after agreeing to become a Rabbitoh at the end of 2019, Arrow described his maiden appearance for the team as "special".

"I was very honoured to pull on the red-and-green jersey for the first time for a club with such a proud history," he said.

"We had a jersey presentation before the game. Mark Ellison presented our jerseys to us. I had to say a nice speech in front of the boys. I guess those things are emotional."

Meanwhile, Gagai lamented the error and penalties that crippled South Sydney in round one. They completed only 63 percent of their sets throughout the game and trailed 22-6 at half-time.

"We've just got to get off to better starts. It's been the story for the last couple of years," the Maroons lynchpin said.

"Competing's not our issue. We tend to let teams get away at the start and find a way to fight back and get back into the game.

"We understand that if we can get off to a better start where it's a bit closer then hopefully we can run away with the game."

What will be the result in this Telstra Premiership clash?

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