After a close encounter in Round 2, Rugby League's biggest rivalry re-ignites when the South Sydney Rabbitohs return home to Allianz Stadium against the Sydney Roosters.
The Script So Far: Rabbitohs vs Roosters
The game's longest and fiercest rivalry is one that has every single fan circling their calendar whenever the Cardinal and Myrtle meet the red, white and blue.
Since the game's very beginnings, the two proud clubs have done battle going back to the very first Grand Final in 1908, which saw Souths defeat Easts 14-12 to claim the first of 21 Premierships.
The Rabbitohs hold the ledger with 120 wins from 229 matches at NRL level (52% winning rate), with five drawn matches between the two clubs heading into this match.
With a number of players and coaches going back and forth across ANZAC Parade ever since, the rivalry has seen plenty of fireworks and heated encounters.
Recent years have seen the Rabbitohs dominate their highly fancied rivals, winning five of the last six matches - including our biggest-ever win over the Roosters in Round 20, 2020 (60-8) as well as a fiery clash in Round 24, 2021 (54-12).
Last time out proved to be one of the most famous finals victories in the Club's history in what was a torrid and hostile affair that saw a record seven players sent to the sin-bin as Jason Demetriou's men knocked the Roosters out in a 30-14 win.
This Friday night marks the first leg of the 17th annual Ron Coote Cup, named after the legendary lock forward that won Premierships at both clubs, and the Rabbitohs will be aiming to make it six Cups in a row.
The Line Ups:
Both sides have some big inclusions in their respective forward packs ahead of the NRL's Multicultural Round.
Latrell Mitchell faces his former club at fullback after reaching 50 appearances for South Sydney last week, with Alex Johnston, Isaiah Tass, Campbell Graham and Izaac Tu'itupou Thompson rounding off the backline.
Cody Walker and Lachlan Ilias line up in the halves, with Junior Tatola making his return in the front row, with Damien Cook at hooker. Thomas Burgess is set to make history by leaping into outright fourth on the Club's all-time most-capped player list, in his 212th appearance for the Rabbitohs.
The back row stays intact from Round 2, with Keaon Koloamatangi, Michael Chee-Kam and Captain Cameron Murray taking their place to round off the starting side.
The interchange bench is boosted with another returning forward in Hame Sele, who takes the field for the first time in 2023, joined by Blake Taaffe, Davvy Moale and Shaquai Mitchell.
Jed Cartwright, Daniel Suluka-Fifita, Ben Lovett, Taane Milne and Peter Mamouzelos make up the extended bench.
The Roosters also welcome back key forward duo Victor Radley and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, and have a side that features plenty of threats with the ball in hand including James Tedesco, Joseph-Aukuso Sua'ali'i, Joseph Manu and Luke Keary, so the Rabbitohs will need to be on high alert.
Key Battle: Returning Forwards
Both sides are one from two heading into Round 3, and have a couple of experienced forwards making a timely return to the field.
The Rabbitohs welcome back 2022 George Piggins Medallist and Tongan International Junior Tatola, following a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) that saw him sidelined against the Penrith Panthers last week.
Alongside him will be fellow middle forward Hame Sele on the interchange bench, who takes the field for the first time this year, with the duo no doubt adding plenty of impact through the middle of the field.
Tatola averaged 136 metres and 27 tackles in 2022, and will be looking to take his World Cup form back to the NRL arena, while Sele will be determined to string together consecutive performances in the Red and Green after averaging an impressive 94 metres from the bench last season.
Firebrand pairing Victor Radley and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves also return for the Tricolours in what will be a boost to their engine room, however, the Rabbitohs forwards have a knack for feeding off their energy, and will no doubt be looking to do so on Friday night.
The age-old adage of forwards winning football games will certainly be applicable to this contest, especially with so much history and ill-feeling towards one another, so definitely keep an eye on this key quartet throughout the match.
It doesn't matter where the Rabbitohs or Roosters stand on the Premiership ladder, one thing is for sure - there's always going to be plenty of emotion both on and off the field.
The Rabbitohs are in a strong position to capitalise on their early season form and continue their winning run over their Bondi-based arch rivals, and will be looking to make it three wins from four at Trellianz Stadium on Friday night.
Those looking to attend the match and cover the stands in Red and Green can purchase tickets here, while those watching from afar can see the match on Channel 9, Foxtel or stream via Kayo.