Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles preview

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South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Saturday 7:35pm at Accor Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park / Wanngal

Rejuvenated Rabbitohs take on depleted Manly

Souths will look to continue an unlikely semi-final push when they take on an injury depleted Manly side further weakened by the loss of Origin stars at Accor Stadium.

The Rabbitohs season has been one filled with disaster, after sacking coach Jason Demetriou after eight weeks the Rabbitohs have showed remarkable improvement. Despite interim coach Ben Hornby dropping his first three matches on the bounce, they have hit back in style winning their next three matches. Remarkably, saving their best for now after an impressive domination of premiership contenders Brisbane. Although they are two wins outside the top eight, they have had two byes so far this season. Every point counts however, during this difficult stretch of the season.

Souths will need to do what they did against Brisbane and that is dominate the middle of the field. Keaon Koloamatangi has delivered in spades since moving to the lock forward position, producing monster efforts to give Souths the middle ascendency. He has strong support from his bench and fellow middle forwards. They enter this one as surprising favourites, so they will again need a strong performance from halves Cody Walker and Jack Wighton. 

Onto team news, Latrell Mitchell and Cam Murray are absent due to their State of Origin commitments. Jye Gray returns early from injury in a handy boost for the Rabbitohs. Liam Le Blanc comes onto the bench for his NRL debut. Elsewhere, it is a settled line-up for the boys from Redfern.

For Manly, they are coming off a potentially famous win in their club history. They were left with no fresh reserves and still found a way to secure victory over a recently resurgent St George Illawarra side. They did this by sticking to the basics and frustrating the Dragons into errors with strong goal-line defence. Lehi Hopoate has been a revelation since debuting and has even sparked talk of a Tommy Turbo return via the centres. 

They will be injury and Origin hit by significant standards in this clash, so their resilience will once again be tested. To beat Souths, they need to win the middle, they have more than enough spark and speed in the backs to have an edge out there even with the injuries. Their middle depth will again be tested with Paseka set to be sidelined in this fixture so expect the next man up to try and take the most from their opportunity. Plus, Anthony Seibold will be keen for revenge against his old club. 

Where do we begin with team changes, Reuben Garrick is in concussion protocol replaced by new signing Aaron Schoupp. DCE is replaced by Karl Lawton, NSW skipper Jake Trbojevic is also missing replaced by Nathan Brown at lock. Aaron Woods starts for Taniela Paseka, while Tof Sipley is named despite a finger injury along with Corey Waddell. Ben Condon comes onto the bench as well as a club debut for Aitasi James and an NRL debut for Caleb Navale. 

Last meeting: Round 1 2024 - Sea Eagles 36 Rabbitohs 24

Who to watch: While all the focus has rightly been on Koloamatangi's emergence in the middle. My focus has been on Davvy Moale. Moale started the year in and out of the side but he's one guy that has significantly benefited from the change in coaching. He's started in every match and has been dominant in the middle for the Rabbitohs, averaging just under 150m the last three weeks while only missing one tackle. So watch for Moale to try and go after the depleted Manly pack. 

Onto Manly and the focus is going onto Luke Brooks. This is the sort of game where Brooks needs to showcase his playmaking leadership. He's had a great year with 9 try-assists and 11 line-break assists this season dealing with less scrutiny than his previous club. It's been a massive breath of fresh air for Brooks and your seeing him enjoying his footy again. This is a game I expect Brooks to be the dominant half in and take the game right up to Souths.

Favourite: Souths are favourites for this clash.  Manly haven't beaten Souths at Homebush since the 2013 prelim final.

My tip: I see this as a Souths win but it won't be a blow out score-line. Manly's depleted line up will compete for lengthy periods but just fall short with the experience of Walker and Wighton proving the difference. Souths by 8.

1. Jye Gray 2. Alex Johnston 3. Taane Milne 4. Richard Kennar 5. Jacob Gagai 6. Jack Wighton 7. Cody Walker 8. Davvy Moale 9. Damien Cook 10. Sean Keppie 11. Michael Chee Kam 12. Jai Arrow 13. Keaon Koloamatangi 14. Peter Mamouzelos 15. Tallis Duncan 16. Thomas Burgess 17. Liam Le Blanc 18. Dion Teaupa

1. Lehi Hopoate 2. Jason Saab 3. Tolutau Koula 19. Jaxson Paulo 5. Tommy Talau 6. Luke Brooks 7. Karl Lawton 11. Corey Waddell 9. Jake Simpkin 10. Toafofoa Sipley 4. Aaron Schoupp 12. Ben Trbojevic 13. Nathan Brown 8. Ethan Bullemor 15. Ben Condon 16. Caleb Navale 17. Aitasi James 18. Clayton Faulalo

Referees: Chris Butler; Sideline Officials: Chris Sutton, Michael Wise; Video Referees: Wyatt Raymond;

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