Monday 27 May, 7pm kickoff Sharks Stadium
Official Twitter hashtags - #NRLCroSou #gorabbitohs
The top-of-the-table Rabbitohs face a stern test against the Cronulla Sharks in the Shire with the home side coming off a 30-20 win over one of the form teams of the comp in the Raiders.
The Sharks will be further buoyed by the return of Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis into the side meaning Tyrone Peachey or Sam Tagataese will most likely miss a spot.
Michael Maguire retains the side that thrashed the Tigers 54-10 with debutant Dylan Walker keeping his spot and George Burgess once again starting.
South Sydney should be fairly fresh considering they are coming off an ten-day break while the Sharks had a tough one against a big Canberra pack on Sunday, meaning their break is eight days.
The Rabbitohs' last victory over the Sharks in Cronulla was back in 2010 with a dominant 30-8 win and it was returning Rabbitoh Beau Champion who was the hero that day scoring a double.
Over the last ten meetings the Rabbitohs have been victorious in six and just edge out the Sharks in scoring, 202-196. Last season they met twice, the Rabbitohs winning 32-26 at ANZ Stadium and the Sharks victorious 20-7 at their home.
The sides have already met once this year with South Sydney victorious in a very scrappy but tight affair 14-12 in round two. After leading 14-0 after just 14 minutes, momentum turned. The Rabbitohs were unable to score after half-time and when a long range Beau Ryan try brought the Sharks within two points in the 66th minute, things looked grim for the home side. The Rabbitohs managed to hold on with an Adam Reynolds penalty at the end of the first half ultimately the difference.
The big performers for the Rabbitohs were Jeff Lima who made 18 runs for 158 metres, Greg Inglis who made 13 runs including eight tackle breaks, a line break and 198 metres and Ben Teo who made 43 tackles.
For the Sharks, John Morris was outstanding in defence with 48 tackles while Andrew Fifita and Paul Gallen ran hard all day for 141 metres and 170 metres respectively.
Keys to Victory
Touted as one of the hot favourites in 2013 with some great buys in the off-season, the Sharks will be fairly disappointed in their 5-5 start. A four match losing streak where they were beaten by St George, Parramatta, Manly and the Bulldogs was followed by wins in their last three outings.
The Rabbitohs are flying in first place with nine wins from ten games, beaten only by last years premiers, the Storm, in a game where they were far from outclassed. The Rabbitohs will need to be much improved from their round two performance with the Sharks starting to hit some form. With the inclusion of Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis further strengthening their side, the task gets even harder.
The Sharks have an extremely tough pack with the likes of Gallen, Lewis, Fifita and Wade Graham. They also have plenty of muscle on the bench with Heighington, Tupou and Bukuya likely to see plenty of action. Up forward is where Cronulla can win this one. They certainly have the pack to get on top but not surprisingly when theyve been beaten up forward, theyve been well beaten on the scoreboard.
Theyll face one of their toughest tests this year with Michael Maguire seemingly finding the right balance of power runners and efficient defenders in his pack. The emergence of George Burgess has been nothing short of startling considering genuine front rowers are still well and truly developing in their early 20s.
Even if the Sharks get on top up forward, theyll still have to contend with several very classy Rabbitohs backs, none more dangerous than Greg Inglis. Inglis has shown several times this season that he can create something out of nothing simply with hard running and a lethal fend. At least three times this season he has pounced on loose footballs and travelled nearly the length to score.
Three times this season, against the Warriors, Manly and Tigers, Greg Inglis has been pinned with good kicks, allowing him less than 50 kick return metres. In those three games he has scored a total of six tries, made 18 tackle breaks and averaged 180 metres. The Sharks will require more than good kicking and kick chase to limit his influence. If theyre not 100% switched on, hell find a way to make an impact.
George Burgess vs Andrew Fifita
George Burgess has been outstanding in 2013 showing that he is one of the hottest prospects in the NRL and a bolter for the England World Cup side. Fifita will have his own representative aspirations, hoping to pull on a blue jersey after his best season to date.
Sam Burgess vs Paul Gallen
Big Sam has been a real forward leader for the Rabbitohs, playing plenty of minutes and leading the Rabbitohs in tackles per game and runs per game. While Gallens season has been halted somewhat by injury, hell be keen for a strong return.
John Sutton vs Todd Carney
John Sutton continues to impress and poses a real danger running the football, especially with so many fantastic support players around him. Todd Carney is a real livewire and several times last season took on the Rabbitohs line and created real havoc.
Holden Cup Preview
Rabbitohs (12th) vs Sharks (16th)
Monday 27 May, 4:45pm kickoff Sharks Stadium
Official Twitter hashtags - #NYCCroSou #gorabbitohs
The Rabbitohs are slowly working their way up the ladder and this week face a Sharks outfit who fell to the top-of-the-table Raiders in the last minute in round ten.
Had they won that game it would have been an enormous boilover considering the Sharks are bottom of the table.
The Rabbitohs scored probably their best win of the season, holding off a fast finishing Tigers to record their third win of the year. There were plenty of good performers but Cameron McInnes continues to show why hes one of the best young hookers in the Holden Cup.
Last time the sides met, back in round two, the Rabbitohs scored a convincing 32-18 win. Trailing 14-12 at halftime, South Sydney dominated the second half four-tries-to-one to record a solid win. Centres Aaron Gray and Tyrone Phillips were outstanding with the former bagging a double while Daniel Smith worked extremely hard making 91 metres and 34 tackles.
The Rabbitohs' forwards have improved remarkably since that round two encounter and will once again be hoping to put forward a strong display. Christian Hazard has established himself as a go-to playmaker and the side will once again be running plenty of attack through him.
Ones to watch from the Sharks are fullback Valentine Holmes, promising hooker Michael Lichaa and versatile forward Michael Morris.