PREVIEW: Rep Round, 2015
Australia v New Zealand
May 3, Suncorp Stadium
Three Rabbitohs will swap the red and green of South Sydney for national colours on Friday night when Australia take-on New Zealand in the 2015 ANZAC Test at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
Rabbitohs fullback and skipper will play fullback in a back-three combination that includes Rabbitoh and Souths Junior Alex Johnston, making his Test debut just over a year since making his first grade debut at the same venue.
Johnston could hardly believe that he had been selected in Tim Sheens’ ANZAC Test side to take on the Kiwis in what will be the Souths Juniors’ Test debut.
“I’m excited – a bit nervous as well,” said Johnston.
“This is a dream come true. Everyone dreams about pulling on the Australian jersey and I’m just going to try and play my best.”
Johnston credited his Rabbitohs teammates for his rise to Test ranks, with the 2014 Club leading try-scorer recalling the moment he was told about his selection after yesterday’s (Sunday’s clash with the Raiders in Cairns.
“After the game we were in the sheds after a disappointing loss,” recalled Johnston.
“Madge got the boys together and (as) a bit of a side of that game, announced that I was in the side. They all came up, gave me a hug, shook my hand – I couldn’t have done it without the boys. Definitely I owe a lot to them.”
On the other side of half-way though will be another Rabbitoh in Issac Luke, whose passion and facial expressions during New Zealand’s Haka have become a highlight of any Kiwis clash in recent years.
Luke will play his 33rd Test for the Kiwis in the match after tasting success on a number of occasions against the green and gold of Australia – most notably in the 2008 World Cup Final, as well as the 2014 Four Nations Final.
All three Rabbitohs reps pose their own particular danger to their opposition and will no doubt play key roles in the one-off Test.
For Australia, the combination between Greg Inglis and Alex Johnston could be a crucial one for the Aussies as the two ply their trade in their club positions. Just look back at their Round 2 effort against the Roosters – a 110 metre effort that saw Inglis defy impossible odds to get out of the in-goal before passing on to Johnston to score.
Issac Luke’s service from dummy-half in many ways is one of the platforms for success, but it’s his opportunism from the ruck that will have the Kangaroos clutching at thin air should their marker defence not be up to scratch. Expect Luke to take every opportunity he sees in front of him.
Fiji v PNG
Cbus Super Stadium
Saurday 2 May
Rabbitohs outside back, Daryl Millard, will notch up his ninth appearance for Fiji when he lines up against Papua New Guinea at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast as part of a very talented Bati outfit.
Despite being best known for his skills in the outside backs, the veteran of nine seasons both in the NRL and the English Super League will partner his brother Ryan in the Fiji halves working alongside current Panther and 2014 Rabbitohs Premiership winner, Apisai Koroisau at hooker.
Throw in the attacking prowess of back three players such as Kevin Naiqama and Marika Koroibete and Fiji possess a formidable line-up capable of causing plenty of damage to any outfit.
Look to the Millard halves pairing to provide stability and direction while the opportunism of Koroisau will no doubt put the The Bati on the front foot from dummy-half.
City v Country
May 3, McDonald Park, Wagga Wagga
Jason Clark will line up for his first top-flight representative call-up in this year’s City v Country clash, after most recently representing the NSW Residents in 2013.
The Coogee Wombats Junior told Rabbitohs.com.au this week that the City-Country clash – traditionally a platform for Blues selection – is an opportunity for players to show their wares at representative level as well as providing the opportunity to experience diversity in the playing and coaching ranks.
“It’s definitely an opportunity,” said Clark.
“This game is an opportunity for us to show what we can do in a representative situation and that’s how I think everyone treats it.
“It’s a chance for me to play alongside players that I usually play opposite or watch. So it’ll certainly be different.
“Being under a different coach as well – I’ve played under Madge for three or four years now so Madge and my brothers in the team around me is all I know.
“Being taken out of my comfort zone and put in amongst a different playing group – I think it’ll be a good challenge for me personally and something that will ultimately help to improve my game.”