Knights v Rabbitohs preview - 2017 Round 3
Reborn Knights chase back-to-back wins at home
Bringing to an end a losing streak dating back to April last year, the Knights experienced the long-awaited ecstasy of victory last Saturday with a determined win over the Titans. Continuing on from their narrow opening round loss across the ditch, the improvement made over the off-season was apparent from the opening whistle, as the mixture of new recruits and battle-hardened rookies announced their intentions that in 2017 the Knights will be anything but easy beats. Retaining the same squad that downed the Titans 34-26, coach Nathan Brown will be hoping consistency in the lineup brings with it similar results, as the Knights chase back-to-back wins for the first time since August 2015. In the only alterations from the 21-man squad named last week, off-season recruits Jacob Gagan and Joe Wardle will be hoping to make their first appearances in the Red and Blue after starting the year in reserve grade.
Showing little signs of discomfort following Greg Inglis' season-ending knee injury, the Rabbitohs powered over the top of Manly to record an emphatic 38-18 win at Lottoland. Despite conceding three tries to trail 12-0 in as many minutes, the forward-domination and early return of halfback Adam Reynolds proved crucial for South Sydney as they ran away with the result. Chasing their eighth consecutive win over the Knights, coach Michael Maguire will have his side on high alert, with a parochial Newcastle crowd set to ensure the Rabbitohs have a tough time coming away with two competition points. Keeping the faith with the squad that triumphed last Saturday, interchange forward Robbie Rochow will have extra motivation to perform as he faces his former club for the first time since parting ways last season. Claiming victory just four times in 20 appearances in Newcastle, South Sydney will be looking to overcome a historical disadvantage, however Michael Maguire coached sides have never lost in the Hunter, including a rare victory on Old Boy's Day last August.
Who to watch: With the Rabbitohs renown for their forward dominated tactics, Newcastle will be looking towards young prop Daniel Safiti to be on his game to repel the Bunnies on Saturday. At just 20-years-old, the Fijian international has been a standout since debuting last year, with his powerhouse charges inspiring the older heads in the Knights pack to match his enthusiasm. Developing a formidable partnership with twin brother Jacob off the bench, Safiti will be looking to continue his strong early season form and experience a career first: consecutive wins.
Having starred against the Knights last season, utility Damien Cook will be out to continue his dummy half partnership with Robbie Farah and help lift the Rabbitohs back into the top eight. While his ambitions of usurping Farah as starting hooker are evident, the former Dragon and Bulldog has consistently made an impact during his time on the field, with his speed and tenacity endearing him to supporters and coach Michael Maguire. Experiencing a try-scoring blunder during his last appearance in Newcastle, look for Cook to make amends as the Rabbitohs look to dampen the Knights newfound spirits.
My tip: While the Knights have shown tremendous improvement over the opening fortnight of the competition, look for the home side to come up short against a more polished South Sydney outfit. Rabbitohs by 6.
1. Brendan Elliott 2. Ken Sio 3. Dane Gagai 4. Peter Mata'utia 5. Nathan Ross 6. Brock Lamb 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Danny Levi 10. Josh Starling 11. Sione Mata'utia 12. Jamie Buhrer 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Luke Yates 15. Jack Stockwell 16. Sam Stone 17. Jacob Saifiti
1. Alex Johnston 2. Braidon Burns 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Robert Jennings 5. Bryson Goodwin 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 17. George Burgess 9. Robbie Farah 10. Jason Clark 11. John Sutton 12. Kyle Turner 13. Sam Burgess 8. Zane Musgrove 14. Damien Cook 15. Angus Crichton 16. Robbie Rochow