Rabbitohs v Raiders preview

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South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canberra Raiders Saturday 7:35pm at Accor Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park / Wanngal

Rabbitohs and Raiders raring to recover from wreckage

Sydney Olympic Park provides the backdrop for this Saturday night's clash between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Canberra Raiders in round 13. Both teams are coming off shocking performances - and not in a good way, either. They'll both be keen to get their seasons back on track with a win. Canberra will enjoy the advantage of only having one player out due to State of Origin duties - less than their opponents the Rabbitohs. 

South Sydney have been shaping not just as premiership contenders, but as premiership favourites, in the early days of NRL 2023. Stringing together an impressive six game long winning streak and beating teams such as Penrith, Brisbane, and Melbourne along the way, Souths won their way into first position on the table. But last weekend they came crashing back down to Earth.

Up against the struggling Parramatta Eels at Moore Park last Friday, the Rabbitohs were expected to sweep the Eels to one side and continue on their winning streak. However, this wasn't to be, with South Sydney falling to a 36-16 defeat in front of over 27,000 fans. They now sit in second on the ladder, behind defending premiers Penrith, and equal on points with a whopping four (yep, you read that right) other teams.

Campbell Graham has been named to play for Souths despite withdrawing from the NSW Blues side with a sternum injury. With Cameron Murray and Latrell Mitchell out on Origin duty, Liam Knight will start at lock, and Blake Taaffe is the fullback.

Canberra have a similar storyline to their opponents heading into this clash. After a shaky start to their campaign, the Raiders got a roll on, winning their way to a five game streak. The streak, defined by a victory over the high-flying Broncos, saw Canberra lifted into the top eight after round 11 for the first time in 2023. However, last week saw their streak grind to a halt.

Raiders played host to Manly in Canberra on Sunday to close out the round. The Sea Eagles had been lacking form, and with Canberra surging up the ladder, the Raiders were expected to win at home. But Manly had come to play, and despite the home team scoring the first try, the Raiders lost 42-14. They now enter round 13 in 8th place on the ladder - although this is only one win away from first place due to a stunningly close competition table. 

With Hudson Young called up to Origin, and with Elliott Whitehead suspended, the Raiders forward pack has had to reshuffle a little. Corey Harawira-Naera has been named in the second row, with Joe Tapine shifting to lock, and Pasami Saulo starting in the front row. Nick Cotric looks set to return from injury, being named on the bench, while Zac Woolford claims the number nine jersey, forcing Danny Levi to the reserves.

These two sides have not met at Sydney Olympic Park since 2017, when Canberra triumphed by 14 points.

Last meeting: Round 11 2022 - Rabbitohs 12 Raiders 32

Who to watch: Blake Taaffe has found his way back into the NRL fold over the past few weeks for the Rabbitohs. After spending much of season 2023 in NSW Cup, Taaffe has won back a bench spot over the past two rounds, and now with star fullback Mitchell out through higher duties, this is the perfect opportunity for Taaffe to shine. Once touted as Adam Reynolds' replacement at Souths, Taaffe has plenty of talent, but it remains to be seen whether he will be showcasing that in the NRL or in NSW Cup for the remainder of the season, not to mention the years going forward.

Ata Mariota has enjoyed a solid start to his NRL career. The Raiders forward has only a handful of first grade games to his name, and despite suffering an injury set-back earlier in season 2023, Mariota has managed to hold down his spot in the side. The 21 year old Apia-born prop is contracted to Canberra until the end of 2024, and with Hudson Young missing from the side, coach Stuart will be hoping that Mariota can help fill the gap. 

Favourite: Somewhat surprisingly, the bookmakers have Canberra as the narrow favourites to get the victory. 

My tip: Despite Rabbitohs losing some Origin stars, I think they will bounce back into form against the Raiders. South Sydney by 8

1. Blake Taaffe 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 14. Jed Cartwright 5. Taane Milne 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Hame Sele 21. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jacob Host 13. Liam Knight 11. Michael Chee Kam 15. Tallis Duncan 16. Shaq Mitchell 17. Daniel Suluka-Fifita 18. Richard Kennar

1. Sebastian Kris 2. Albert Hopoate 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Matthew Timoko 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Josh Papali'i 9. Zac Woolford 10. Pasami Saulo 11. Corey Harawira-Naera 12. Corey Horsburgh 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Tom Starling 15. Emre Guler 16. Nick Cotric 17. Ata Mariota 18. Hohepa Puru

Referees: Grant Atkins; Sideline Officials: David Munro, Jon Stone; Video Referees: Adam Gee;

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