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PREVIEW: Rd 20, 2017

Words: Chris Kennedy, National Correspondent‌‌, ‌‌‌NRL.com

Competition - NRL Premiership.

Round - 24.

Teams - South Sydney Rabbitohs v Cronulla Sharks.

Date - 22nd of August 2016.

Venue - ANZ Stadium, Sydney.

Photographer - Nathan Hopkins.
Competition - NRL Premiership. Round - 24. Teams - South Sydney Rabbitohs v Cronulla Sharks. Date - 22nd of August 2016. Venue - ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Photographer - Nathan Hopkins.

Cronulla Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Southern Cross Group Stadium
Friday, 7.50pm

Round 20 in all likelihood can't come quick enough for both the Sharks and Rabbitohs after their respective losses last weekend.

The premiers probably wouldn't have expected to receive the kind of treatment they did up on the Gold Coast; while the Titans are a serious footy team, to lose 30-10 to a team so far below them on the ladder would've been a tough pill to swallow for Shane Flanagan's men.

Their hefty Origin cohort have had a tough two months; this week James Maloney returns from a one-week rest with Andrew Fifita back in the starting side and all six Sharks Origin reps need to dust themselves off and refocus on a charge to the finals.

Luke Lewis also moves into the starting team with Jason Bukuya and Sam Tagataese dropping to the pine; Luke Capewell misses out as Maloney's return pushes Jack Bird back to the centres.

The Bunnies missed a big opportunity in Cairns last week in what was technically their home game against the Cowboys. Their commanding Round 17 win over the Panthers seems a long while ago after a close loss to an understrength Roosters followed by that underwhelming one last week to the Cowboys. 

Coach Michael Maguire has named Aaron Gray to return on the wing and hooker Damien Cook on the bench with Braidon Burns and Cam Murray both dropping to the reserves.

Much like their opponents, Round 17 is the place to look for inspiration for the Rabbitohs. The 42-14 result is perhaps best remembered for flyer Alex Johnston's stunning five-try haul but it was built on a slick all-round team performance.

A completion rate of 86 per cent and a similar dominance in run metres (close to 400 metres better than the Panthers that day) were capped by a sublime kicking performance from halfback Adam Reynolds, who created four of the team's seven tries. If his forward pack can give him a solid platform the little No.7 has the kicking game to make life tough for Cronulla's in-form back five.