South Sydney have twice been put in their place by defending premiers Melbourne this season and now they face losing 2021 grand finalists Penrith - the hottest team in the NRL.
The Rabbitohs were blown off the park in both encounters by the Storm, to the tune of 50-0 on the second occasion just two weeks ago, but they take on an even more fiendish challenge against the undefeated Panthers who are conceding a miniscule 7.2 points per game and scored 48 points apiece in thrashing the Titans and Sharks in the previous two rounds.
Souths have the individuals to go toe-to-toe with many of Penrith's stars but there is genuine reason to doubt whether their collective efforts will match up with the flawless teamwork the Panthers roll out on a weekly basis.
Penrith are displaying a more ruthless streak in 2021, shedding the tendency to take their foot off the opposition's throat they showed during their long win streak last season.
Match: Rabbitohs v Panthers
Round 11 -
Venue: Apex Oval, Dubbo
Rabbitohs: Campbell Graham has been moved from the reserves list into the centres, with Braidon Burns (No.4) now the 18th man. Jed Cartwright comes into the squad in the No.22 jersey and will be on the interchange bench.
Campbell Latrell Mitchell reclaims the No.1 jersey after completing his suspension which allows coach Wayne Bennett to shift Cody Walker back to five-eighth and return Benji Marshall to his bench utility role.
Veteran winger Josh Mansour (hamstring) is also back in the line-up, meaning Taane Milne drops out of the 21.
The consequences of Jaydn Su'A and Dane Gagai's transgressions in Brisbane were limited to fines for both players.
Jacob Host, Dean Hawkins and Patrick Mago were left out 24 hours before kick-off.
Rabbitohs winger Alex Johnston has scored 32 tries from his past 32 games while halfback Adam Reynolds has landed 21 of his past 22 attempts at goal.
Panthers: With Dylan Edwards and Moses Leota out, Stephen Crichton moves to fullback and Paul Momirovski into the centres.
Liam Martin will start at prop and Matt Eseinhuth is on the bench. Spencer Leniu is now on the interchange bench and Robert Jennings is the 18th man.
Edwards, Leota and J'maine Hopgood were omitted the day before the game.
Origin back-rower Kurt Capewell (head knock) returns this week after sitting out Magic Round which pushes last-start try-scorer Liam Martin to the interchange.
Penrith were granted an NRL exemption on Friday to replace Hopgood with Jennings.
Utility Matt Burton has once again held on to his centre spot.
The Panthers have won their past three games against the Rabbitohs and winger Charlie Staines has scored five tries in his past two games.
Fullback for Rabbitohs is number 1 Latrell MitchellFullback for Panthers is number 3 Stephen Crichton
Winger for Rabbitohs is number 2 Alex JohnstonWinger for Panthers is number 2 Charlie Staines
Centre for Rabbitohs is number 3 Dane GagaiCentre for Panthers is number 4 Matt Burton
Centre for Rabbitohs is number 21 Campbell GrahamCentre for Panthers is number 21 Paul Momirovski
Winger for Rabbitohs is number 5 Josh MansourWinger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
Five-Eighth for Rabbitohs is number 6 Cody WalkerFive-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
Halfback for Rabbitohs is number 7 Adam ReynoldsHalfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
Prop for Rabbitohs is number 8 Thomas BurgessProp for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
Hooker for Rabbitohs is number 9 Damien CookHooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
Prop for Rabbitohs is number 10 Tevita TatolaProp for Panthers is number 17 Liam Martin
2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 11 Keaon Koloamatangi2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 12 Jaydn Su'A2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Kurt Capewell
Lock for Rabbitohs is number 13 Liam KnightLock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 14 Benji MarshallInterchange for Panthers is number 14 Tyrone May
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 15 Mark NichollsInterchange for Panthers is number 15 Scott Sorensen
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 17 Jai ArrowInterchange for Panthers is number 16 Matthew Eisenhuth
Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 22 Jed CartwrightInterchange for Panthers is number 18 Spencer Leniu
Reserve for Rabbitohs is number 4 Braidon BurnsReserve for Panthers is number 22 Robert Jennings
- Referee: Grant Atkins
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Touch Judge: Todd Smith
- Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara
Cody Walker v Jarome Luai: While the goal-kicking No.7s dominate the headlines it's the scheming five-eighths who create the most try-scoring chances for these teams, with Walker having scored eight tries and laid on eight more this season while Luai is No.1 in try assists this year and last season.
Both are elusive ball-runners who thrive in the "eyes-up" style of footy that fans love and defences hate, and either could be the game-breaker in what shapes as a blockbuster between two strong line-ups.
It's been a case of close but no cigar for South Sydney in their past three attempts to take down the Panthers juggernaut.
Those losses have been by one, eight and four points with Penrith scoring no more than 20 in any of those contests.
The Rabbitohs may boast one of the NRL's more deadly attacks but they will be trying to unlock a defence that is on course to stamp itself as one of the greatest in rugby league history.
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