Rabbitohs v Knights preview

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South Sydney Rabbitohs v Newcastle Knights Sunday 4:05pm at ANZ Stadium

Rabbitohs look to begin finals run as Knights make seven-year return

Well that was… surprising. Sure, Wayne Bennett isn't called the master coach for no reason. But plotting a 60-8 thumping of arch rivals is something not even the most fanatical Rabbitohs fan would have predicted. Souths are riding an unbelievable high. The only problem is making sure they don't forget that last week's result means nothing if they don't back it up again on Sunday. They can't expect for the points to simply start piling up. Those interviewed post-game last Friday were quick to point that out though and even if they didn't Bennett would be fast to make sure they re-focussed. Newcastle were ripped apart on the edges last week against the Gold Coast which doesn't bode well given South Sydney's strike out wide. Cody Walker had seven try involvements last week - he's filling the gap left by Latrell Mitchell as the roving playmaker out the back on lots of the Bunnies' set plays. With a crisp passing game, dangerous footwork and a deft short kick in his arsenal, Walker is as unpredictable as they come and will test Newcastle's shaky defence. Souths get a boost up front with Jaydn Su'A returning, shifting Cameron Murray to lock and Liam Knight to the bench.

After seven long years, the Newcastle Knights are back in the finals. Adam O'Brien has to receive some credit for the feat given it is his rookie season at the helm. But in all honesty, at this rate it will mean little if the men from the Hunter bow out in the opening week. Yet that is exactly what most expect to happen. A 36-6 thumping at the hands of the Titans is hardly the ideal preparation for the finals. Last week's 30-point loss was indicative of a bigger issue at Newcastle that is yet to be fixed despite having been addressed on multiple occasions this year. It's all about attitude, particularly without the ball in hand. After a dejecting defeat by the exact same score line to the Warriors in Tamworth, O'Brien labelled the performance as "embarrassing." A month earlier he had asked the Knights what team they wanted to be after an equally humiliating loss to the Bulldogs. The regular season has passed and still there is no clear answer to that question. At the moment all they look like is also-rans. Kalyn Ponga has been heavily criticised but he can only do so much. He needs more support, especially from Mitchell Pearce. Newcastle need him to lead from the front on Sunday against the high-flying Rabbitohs. The Knights' only team change sees Lachlan Fitzgibbon start and Sione Mata'utia bumped back to the bench.

Last meeting: Round 10 2020 - Rabbitohs 18 Knights 20

Who to watch: Both teams have centres who have enjoyed much-improved 2020 campaigns to put themselves in the Origin frame. Campbell Graham now has 10 tries from his past seven games and not all of those four-pointers have been simple put downs either. Just as crucial has been his strong carries from inside South Sydney's half to kick off their sets and build ascendancy for the pack to play off. 

Meanwhile, Enari Tuala has benefited from increased game time since leaving North Queensland. He has more tackle busts and tries from his 19 games played this year than in the 18 appearances he made during his time at Townsville. The permanent role on Newcastle's edge and playing outside Ponga has given Tuala the opportunity to make a name for himself but he will need to be on his game defensively given South Sydney's ability to create indecision in the defensive line.

The favourite: Souths are in-form and the hot favourites.

My tip: The Knights can be hot and cold so their fans will be hoping it is the former this week. Unfortunately for them, it is just too hard to ignore the gulf in class and form between the two halves pairings. Rabbitohs by 14.

1. Corey Allan 2. Alex Johnston 3. Campbell Graham 4. Dane Gagai 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 15. Liam Knight 12. Bayley Sironen 13. Cameron Murray 11. Jaydn Su'A 14. Mark Nicholls 16. Jed Cartwright 17. Keaon Koloamatangi

1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 9. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 14. Chris Randall 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Mitchell Barnett 16. Herman Ese'ese 12. Aidan Guerra 15. Jacob Saifiti 17. Sione Mata'utia 20. Tex Hoy

Referees: Ben Cummins; Sideline Officials: Chris Sutton, Belinda Sharpe; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell;

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