The last time Wayne Bennett guided a team to a premiership he devised a "practice semis run" with the Dragons in 2010 and the master coach may be employing the same tactics with the Rabbitohs.
South Sydney lock Cameron Murray, who will play his 100th NRL match for the club he grew up supporting on Friday night, revealed that the Rabbitohs are treating their run into the play-offs as a "dress rehearsal" after falling one win short of the grand final in each of the past three seasons.
Penrith beat Souths 25-12 last weekend but the result didn’t alter the finals set-up as those teams are destined to finish second and third.
There will likely be no home-ground advantage when they meet again in the opening round of the finals series in two weeks.
The Rabbitohs play the fourth-placed Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night but besides bragging rights in the game’s oldest rivalry the result is of no real consequence for Bennett’s team.
Instead, the seven-time premiership-winning coach is preparing Souths for bigger challenges ahead as they attempt to move past the preliminary final and qualify for the grand final for the first time since 2014.
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"We have been talking about dress rehearsals and making sure that we are ticking off all of the boxes, and playing consistent footy, so that we continually build our confidence before we get to the big games," Murray said.
"Something that has been a big focus for us – and has been over the last month or so – is building that confidence and trust within the group, and making sure we are playing consistent footy, so we know that when it comes to the big moments we are going to face over the coming weeks, especially when it comes to finals, that we are ready.
"It is no disrespect to any team that we have played over the last couple of weeks, or we are going to play.
"Leading into the finals we are pretty lucky with the position we are in on the ladder. I guess in terms of points and results we are not really under the pump too much."
St George Illawarra were in a similar position in 2010 after leading the competition from round five but they had won the minor premiership the year before in Bennett’s first season at the club and exited the finals with back-to-back defeats.
With the Red V having been branded "chokers" and "underachievers" after qualifying for the play-offs in five of the previous six years and falling one win short of the grand final in 2005 and 2006, Bennett devised a "practice semis run" for the last five rounds of the 2010 season.
The Dragons had lost three out of four matches so Bennett used the opportunity to replicate the pressure they would face in the play-offs.
"He said, 'boys, I want you to focus on these games like you would in the finals series. Give it everything you have got, and I don’t care what happens for the rest of the year'," 2010 title-winning player Dean Young recalled in the NRL.com documentary The True Believers.
"He spoke to us about not caring whether we won or lost but it was to focus on that pretend finals series and I think that had a big impact."
Dragons 2010 premiership-winning captain Ben Hornby, who is one of Bennett’s coaching assistants at Souths, said: "Whether we won or lost didn’t really have much effect on us at that stage. We were just concentrating on our next game."
In the run to the finals, St George Illawarra beat the Roosters and Sea Eagles, lost to the Raiders and triumphed against the Eels and Rabbitohs to claim the minor premiership.
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After thrashing Manly 28-0 in their opening play-offs match, the Dragons had to come from behind to defeat Wests Tigers 13-12 in the preliminary final before going on to a 32-8 grand final win against the Roosters.
"It was a great bit of coaching," Young said. "That practice run gave us confidence that we were ready for the semis."
Murray said Souths players were disappointed by last weekend’s loss to Penrith after leading 12-0 midway through the first half but believe after reviewing the match that they just need to reduce penalties and errors to be premiership contenders.
"It is not nice falling one game short of the grand final three years in a row so there is definitely a little bit of fire in everyone’s belly wanting to go that extra step," Murray said.
"Last week was a big test for us and obviously we are a bit disappointed there but there are some positives we can take out of that game and a few things we need to correct.
"For us, it is all about playing that consistent footy and making sure we turn up with the right focus and attitude no matter who we are playing. We have got two games now to get it right."