Rabbitohs' old and new prepare for Roosters rivalry
Rabbitohs veteran Sam Burgess and 2018 recruit Dane Gagai are gearing up for another instalment of one of the game's great rivalries when the first-placed Rabbitohs host the third-placed Roosters on Friday night.
Burgess is no stranger to hostility involving the Roosters; his NRL debut was at ANZ Stadium against that very club in 2010.
He was on the field when Souths downed the Roosters to earn a 2014 grand final berth, when they were stunned by two late tries in two minutes to lose in round one 2012 and again in round 19 that year when Souths themselves bagged two tries in the final 120 seconds to steal an even more unlikely victory.
"We're both at the top end of the table so it's going to be a high-quality game," Burgess said as he eyed off another meeting with the Tricolours this week.
"They're in some good form, we're coming off a decent win last week [against Melbourne] so it will be a good game of football."
Of the rivalry, he added: "it was my first game in the NRL, against the Roosters at ANZ so I learned about it pretty quickly.
"Me and Russell [Crowe] spent a lot of time together back then as well so he'd drip feed me the history. You do learn about the rivalry.
"There are a lot of the local juniors and the more time you spend in the community you understand what it means to a lot of people."
Asked what his most memorable clash against the Roosters was, Burgess had to think for a moment before nominating the second clash in 2012.
"Probably the most iconic is the one with a couple of tries at the back end of the game," he said.
"I was knackered in that game, I'd come back from injury. I played 80, I don't know how I did it, I was a passenger for the last 10 minutes of the game. That was probably the most memorable one.
"There's been a few over the years when you sit down and think about it. I guess Friday will be another one, we'll see what happens out there."
Centre Dane Gagai will have his hands full marking in-form opposite Latrell Mitchell but is also coming to grips with the old rivalry in what will be the former Bronco and Knight's second taste.
"I'm pretty new to it. Mario [club legend Mario Fenech] came up to me… he's pretty old school. It's just one of those things, the oldest clubs, it's going to be a great atmosphere and I just can't wait to play in front of all the fans."
Pressed on what Fenech had to say, Gagai added: "He just asked us to please beat them.
"He's been coming down [to Souths training] the last couple of weeks, he's a legend of the club, it's always good having those old players come down. You want to make them as proud as the boys playing with you because they've worn that jersey before."
Gagai said Mitchell's recent form will have the South Sydney right edge on notice.
"He's been in good form but so have their team. They're looking to get him some early ball, he's a big strong athlete and he's fast [but] you can't worry about one player," Gagai said.
"Boyd Cordner's been doing a good job too, he's got more involved in his passing game, drawing the centre to give Latrell a bit of space. He's been playing some great footy and he's a great player in attack."