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Before Penrith and South Sydney can entertain serious thoughts about finishing the year as premiers, they first need to navigate this top-four showdown.

Their qualifying final will be played at 7.50pm on Saturday in the second of the double-header at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville.

The winner secures a week off and a spot in the preliminary finals while the loser will find themselves in a loser-goes-home contest in week two of the post-season.

Penrith were beaten grand finalists in 2020 but their fans will be hoping the experience they gained from that journey will help get them one step further this year.

The Panthers are coming off an emphatic win over Parramatta in the final round even though the Eels did field a depleted side.

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South Sydney will say goodbye to star No.7 Adam Reynolds and coaching great Wayne Bennett at the end of the season.

They hope that's with the club's 22nd premiership secured.

The rundown

Team news

Panthers: In late changes for the Panthers Moses Leota is out due to a calf complaint and Matt Eisenhuth moves into the starting side in his return from a rib injury. Liam Martin will also start and Viliame Kikau goes to the bench.

Fullback Dylan Edwards won't play due to what the club described as a minor foot injury. Stephen Crichton moves to fullback with Charlie Staines the new winger.

Edwards and Brent Naden were the two players left out 24 hours before the match. Izack Tago is 18th man.

Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary has scored 56 points in his past four games against the Rabbitohs.

Rabbitohs: The Rabbitohs are 1-17 with no late changes. Taane Milne was the last man cut and Patrick Mago is 18th man.

Skipper Adam Reynolds said on Monday he was in no doubt to play after being given the week off following a knee concern a fortnight ago.

Blake Taaffe keeps the No.1 jersey after filling in for the suspended Latrell Mitchell in the win over St George Illawarra in round 25.

Alex Johnston, Dane Gagai, Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Thomas Burgess, Jai Arrow and Cameron Murray are rested and ready to go after their week off.

Keaon Koloamatangi returns from suspension to bolster the pack.

Braidon Burns, Lachlan Ilias and Jed Cartwright were omitted 24 hours before the match.

The Rabbitohs scored 100 points in three finals games in 2020.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Panthers is number 2 Stephen Crichton
    Fullback for Rabbitohs is number 1 Blake Taaffe
  • Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
    Winger for Rabbitohs is number 2 Alex Johnston
  • Centre for Panthers is number 3 Paul Momirovski
    Centre for Rabbitohs is number 3 Dane Gagai
  • Centre for Panthers is number 4 Matt Burton
    Centre for Rabbitohs is number 4 Campbell Graham
  • Winger for Panthers is number 20 Charlie Staines
    Winger for Rabbitohs is number 5 Jaxson Paulo
  • Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
    Five-Eighth for Rabbitohs is number 6 Cody Walker
  • Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
    Halfback for Rabbitohs is number 7 Adam Reynolds

Forwards

  • Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
    Prop for Rabbitohs is number 8 Mark Nicholls
  • Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
    Hooker for Rabbitohs is number 9 Damien Cook
  • Prop for Panthers is number 18 Matthew Eisenhuth
    Prop for Rabbitohs is number 10 Tevita Tatola
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Kurt Capewell
    2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 11 Keaon Koloamatangi
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 17 Liam Martin
    2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 12 Jaydn Su'A
  • Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
    Lock for Rabbitohs is number 13 Cameron Murray

Interchange

  • Interchange for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 14 Benji Marshall
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Mitch Kenny
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 15 Jacob Host
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Spencer Leniu
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 16 Thomas Burgess
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Tevita Pangai Junior
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 17 Jai Arrow

Reserves

  • Reserve for Panthers is number 19 Izack Tago
    Reserve for Rabbitohs is number 21 Patrick Mago

Match Officials

  • Referee: Gerard Sutton
  • Touch Judge: Dave Munro
  • Touch Judge: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
  • Senior Review Official: Alan Shortall

Last updated:

Key match-up

Jarome Luai v Cody Walker. They were the two contenders for the NSW No.6 jersey and have both enjoyed great seasons.

Walker's attacking numbers have been phenomenal while Luai remains a superb partner for Nathan Cleary. Expect both to have a major say in the outcome.

Stat attack

The Rabbitohs are going to need to be strong with their tackling. Penrith had the most tackle breaks during the season with 858. South Sydney were eighth in that category with 760.

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