The Rabbitohs have hit a speed hump in recent weeks, losing players to Origin and injury and losing three in a row to the Panthers, Knights and Eels.
The last win for Wayne Bennett's men was over Wests Tigers in round 11 and by a quirk of the draw they meet again just five weeks later.
The Bunnies' forward stocks have been boosted by the return of George Burgess and they'll need Blues reps Damien Cook and Cam Murray to stand tall as well if they are to get over the top of a Tigers pack led by Alex Twal and Ryan Matterson.
The Tigers will be hoping it's a case of third time's a charm as far as Bankwest Stadium goes after their other two outings at the flashy new venue resulted in hidings from Parramatta and Canberra.
Wests Tigers: Josh Aloiai is a late out, with Oliver Clark added to the team at prop. The Tigers are otherwise intact, with Chris Lawrence moving into the starting side after two games back from facial injuries. With Lawrence starting, Michael Chee Kam goes to the bench. Elijah Taylor has been recalled to the team and will come off the bench. Josh Reynolds dropped out of the squad on Wednesday night, while Chris McQueen and Paul Momirovski were the last players cut prior to kick-off.
Rabbitohs: Corey Allan replaces Alex Johnston at fullback in the only change to the initial 17-man team named on Tuesday. The return of Adam Reynolds after two weeks out with a back injury is a huge boost for the Bunnies. Centre Braidon Burns (hamstring) is also back for his first game since round three, pushing Kyle Turner back to the bench. George Burgess returns in the front row after missing the round 14 loss to the Panthers due to illness so Junior Tatola reverts to the bench. Origin reps Damien Cook, Cameron Murray and Dane Gagai are all on deck.. Johnston (bone bruising) and Sam Burgess (shoulder) dropped out of the squad 24 hours prior to kick off. Adam Doueihi and Connor Tracey were omitted an hour before kick-off.
Benji Marshall will be on a massive high after an emotional return to the Test arena for New Zealand while opposing No.6 Cody Walker could be forgiven for feeling down after losing his Blues Origin spot and watching on from home as NSW belted Queensland in Perth. Marshall and Walker are both instinctive five-eighths who can turn a game in a twinkling with great footwork or a clever kick and they'll match wits here in a mouth-watering showdown.
For the Tigers to win
Make sure they bring the same energy and desperation which got them across the line in Townsville. After bursting out of the blocks in that game with three tries inside the first half hour they clocked off to let the Cowboys take the front. To the Tigers' credit they dug deep to regain the lead through Michael Chee Kam late in regulation time and then clutch man Marshall did the rest in golden point.
For the Rabbitohs to win
Get back to what made them so hard to beat in the opening 12 rounds. Defence was the cornerstone of their blistering 10-1 start to the season and they need to put the steel back in the red and green wall. They conceded 15ppg through the first 11 rounds but since then have given up 26 to the Eels, 20 to Newcastle and 19 to Penrith so it's time to crank up the line speed and work as a cohesive unit in defence to keep the dangerous Tigers at bay.
Brett Kimmorley says
A couple of big returns if Adam Reynolds and Braidon Burns are back. Apart from Sam Burgess this is probably one of the better sides they’ll have had for a number of weeks. The Wests Tigers area grinding side but they have that inability to score a lot of points. The excitement for Tigers fans is they should have a very happy and confident Benji Marshall. Rabbitohs by 4
Cody Walker is second on the tryscorers table with 11, one behind Parramatta's Maika Sivo. Damien Cook is equal-first in line break assists (12) with Mitchell Pearce and equal-second in try assists (15) with Michael Morgan. The Rabbitohs are the top team in line breaks (59), runs (2,575) and run metres (22,575).
And another thing ...
The Bunnies need Cody Walker to quickly rediscover his best form. Walker wasn't himself in his Origin debut and was off the boil in the round 14 Origin II audition against Penrith duo Nathan Cleary and James Maloney. Regardless of whether he deserved to be dropped from the Blues or was unfairly made a scapegoat, Walker has to move on and find the joy in his game again.