South Sydney v Penrith preview

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South Sydney Rabbitohs v Penrith Panthers Sunday 2:00pm at Apex Oval

Dubbo may be treated to a potential grand final preview on Sunday as the Rabbitohs and Panthers face off. 

South Sydney have just the two losses to their name in 2021 - both to the Melbourne Storm - and would only strengthen their premiership credentials here by snapping Penrith's winning run. 

The Rabbitohs cruised to an early lead last week against Cronulla before faltering late, holding on for a 32-22 win. 

Wayne Bennett bristled post-game at suggestions his team were struggling to put 80-minute performances together but it is not far from the truth. 

The Panthers have conceded just 76 points this season - 124 fewer than the Rabbitohs and even restricted Melbourne to just 10 earlier in the season, proving just how difficult a task Souths have on Sunday.

The return of Latrell Mitchell does mean Bennett will have the first-choice spine at his disposal while former Panther Josh Mansour also returns on the wing.

Campbell Graham has been named on the extended bench and could make a comeback from injury but Cam Murray remains sidelined. 

Penrith, meanwhile, welcome back Kurt Capewell with Liam Martin back to the bench and J'maine Hopgood dropping out in their only changes. 

Nathan Cleary was at his devastating best in a 28-point individual haul against the Titans last week. 

An 18-12 second half against the 12-man Gold Coast did not leave Ivan Cleary too impressed post-game - a concerning sign for the Rabbitohs. 

Instead of hoping to play a Panthers side with little to prove, it is clear the coach still expects improvement and sustained intensity from the playing group, regardless of how many records they have broken along the way. 

Last meeting: Finals Week 3 2020 - Panthers 20 Rabbitohs 16

Who to watch: Damien Cook has the NSW No. 9 jersey wrapped up but Apisai Koroisau has certainly been putting the pressure on the incumbent the past year. Cook shapes as South Sydney's best chance of disrupting a Penrith defensive line that has so rarely cracked this season. While incredibly mobile and fit, the Panthers can get a bit loose at times in the middle around the ruck - Manly exposed it over a fortnight ago. If forwards can pop late offloads for Cook he has the pace to challenge Penrith. Meanwhile, Koroisau has been doing his job for the Panthers recently without being overly flashy but is primed for another big performance. Deception around the ruck is his greatest strength but has not been needed given Penrith's dominance in most games this year. The Rabbitohs though present stern opposition and Koroisau may need to draw on his bag of tricks to get Penrith over the line. 

The favourite: Hard to back against the undefeated Panthers who are well backed here.

My tip: The Rabbitohs have the individual attacking threats to make this a tight affair but Penrith's edge in defence should prove the difference. Penrith  by 8.

1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dane Gagai 21. Campbell Graham 5. Josh Mansour 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Tevita Tatola 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jaydn Su'A 13. Liam Knight 14. Benji Marshall 15. Mark Nicholls 17. Jai Arrow 22. Jed Cartwright 4. Braidon Burns

3. Stephen Crichton 2. Charlie Staines 21. Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5. Brian To'o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 17. Liam Martin 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone May 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Matthew Eisenhuth 18. Spencer Leniu 22. Robert Jennings

Referees: Grant Atkins; Sideline Officials: David Munro, Todd Smith; Video Referees: Henry Perenara;

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