Full Time
7:50pm Thu May 2, 2019
Round 8 - Accor Stadium - Crowd: 13643

Round 8: Rabbitohs v Broncos preview

No love lost in highly anticipated clash

From the moment Wayne Bennett and Anthony Seibold resolved their farcical coaching stand-off and officially switched clubs five months ago, the anticipation for the Round 8 showdown between South Sydney and Brisbane has attracted a level of interest rarely sighted leading into an early season club game.

Coming into the Thursday night fixture off the back of a hard-fought 22-18 win over Penrith, the South Sydney Rabbitohs have forged a reputation as one of the competition front-runners under Bennett to sit alongside last year's grand finalists atop the premiership ladder.

Holding a dismal record against Brisbane over the past three decades with just nine wins and a draw from 38 meetings, the Rabbitohs will fancy their chances of coming away with a seventh win from eight matches in 2019 off the back of a highly impressive attacking record - second only to the reigning premiers.

Coinciding as an official celebration in honour of retiring captain Greg Inglis, the Rabbitohs will be hoping to secure the first crowd over 20,000 for a Thursday night game in Sydney since the fixture was adopted fulltime three years ago.

Unchanged for the fourth consecutive week, expect to see Tevita Tatola start in the front row as has become custom with George Burgess to come into the match midway through the first half in jersey eight.

Breaking a run of four losses to secure a much-needed 29-6 win against Cronulla at Suncorp over the ANZAC weekend, the Brisbane Broncos will be out to extend a dominant streak over the Rabbitohs in recent times having claimed the past seven wins.

Tied on four competition points alongside six other teams, but benefitting from a strong for-and-against differential to sit in tenth position, coach Anthony Seibold will have his sights firmly set on cancelling out the hype surrounding Thursday's much-publicised clash in order to arrest Brisbane's poor record at ANZ Stadium, that has seen the Queensland powerhouse club manage just five wins from 14 appearances this decade.

Chasing back-to-back wins for the first time this season, Broncos captain Darius Boyd will become only the 35th player to reach 300 first grade games, while opposing Wayne Bennett - the man who coached him in 292 matches across stints at Brisbane, St George Illawarra and Newcastle - for the first time in his career.

Having been linked with an immediate release to the Warriors, Kodi Nikorima has been rested allowing 18-year-old halfback Tom Dearden to make his NRL debut in the only change from the team victorious against the Sharks last Thursday.

Last meeting: Round 23 2018 - Broncos 38 Rabbitohs 18

Who to watch: Regarded as a strong contender to make his representative debut for New South Wales given his strong start to the year, Rabbitohs lock Cameron Murray will be out to press his case in a match of major importance. Averaging over 140 metres and 30 tackles per game since being elevated to the starting side under Wayne Bennett, the 21-year-old Mascot Jets' junior has played a pivotal role in helping South Sydney equal their best start to a season since 2013, while benefitting from the experience of captaining the Blues Under-20s team two years ago. Facing off against a Broncos pack brimming with some of the best young forwards in the game, look for Murray to take on Tevita Pangai Jr headfirst in a clash set to leave Brad Fittler salivating at the young talent at his disposal.

Set to become the youngest player to debut as a starting halfback for Brisbane in the club's 31-year history, Tom Dearden can expect a tough initiation into the NRL on Thursday night. Reaching first grade eligibility seven weeks ago, the 18-year-old will be hoping to defy the path taken by Ashley Taylor and Ben Hunt - the two most recent halfbacks to debut for Brisbane - by coming away with a win in his first appearance in the top grade. Representing Queensland Under-18s and Australian Schoolboys last year, Dearden will receive plenty of attention from the Burgess brothers in a challenge set to test his mettle early on, but having been backed to do the job by his coach in spite of his youth, look for the young playmaker to give a solid account of himself in a debut to remember.

The favourite: Coming into Thursday night's grudge match with a single loss for the season, the Rabbitohs are expected to retain their standing as joint competition leaders with a fifth straight win at ANZ Stadium dating back to 2018.

My tip: With so much anticipation leading into Thursday night's clash, expect the big game experience of the Rabbitohs to come to the fore in a high-scoring affair. Rabbitohs by 12.