Round 22: Rabbitohs v Roosters preview
110 year rivals just as relevant so many years later in top four thriller.
OK, so we're now fairly confident we can call the South Sydney Rabbitohs premiership heavyweights. We've known that most of the year about the Roosters, but after a lean few years, the Bunnies being back up in the mix had a temporary feel to it - until they answered their critics sternly with a 30-20 win over premiers the Storm last Friday at ANZ Stadium.
Under first-year NRL coach Anthony Seibold, this South Sydney side is absolutely the real deal - and have even done it all without Greg Inglis for the last month. A nine-game winning streak in the middle of the season was snapped just a few weeks back by a desperate Wests Tigers and while the Bunnies struggled to put Parramatta away a week later, their performance against Melbourne less than a week ago has shot them to the top of the ladder.
The Roosters have been floating around the top four for most of the season, with the occasional dip in form seeing them slide back to 5th or 6th - but Trent Robinson appears to have the Tricolours humming along just fine. They won't be pleased with their second-half showing against the Cowboys but the two competition points are the important part and they earned them despite a less-than-80-minute performance last Saturday.
Both teams are relatively settled, with only one change to either side's 17 following last weekend's matches. A knee injury to Adam Doueihi for Souths sees him out for the season, with Richie Kennar named as his replacement on the wing. The Roosters are unchanged.
This will be meeting #218 between these long-time rivals since those heady days in 1908. South Sydney are ahead 113-99 with just five draws in those 110 years of epic battles. Souths got the choccies in Round 6 when these sides faced off at Allianz.
Who to watch: Two men will almost certainly be centre of attention on Friday night at ANZ - and will no doubt be hoping they're there again on September 30. Dane Gagai v Latrell Mitchell was a treat at Origin level and will again be a spectacular show for anyone who gets off their backside to be at the Olympic Park venue.
Gagai's defence will be key here - we all know his attacking skill but containing Latrell will be key for the former Newcastle Knight.
There's also a lot to be said for the forward packs the two sides boast, dripping with rep talent. The Burgess trio, Cook, Sutton and Crichton have been immense in 2018 and their opposites boast plenty of firepower too - JWH and Cordner the most notable names.