The Canberra Raiders will take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs at GIO Stadium Canberra on Saturday night, 25 July, for the first time since last year’s famous Preliminary Final victory at the same venue.
That match was a low scoring grind with the Raiders prevailing 16-10 in front of a record crowd of 26,567 fans and despite their being a considerably smaller crowd for this game, there is still plenty on the line.
The Raiders are coming off their best win of the season against the Roosters but have not won consecutive matches since the competition resumed in round 3, so will be looking for consistent performances as the second half of the season begins.
They managed to beat the Roosters through the middle of the field with some outstanding play from Josh Papalii, Dunamis Lui and Joe Tapine, and the Raiders playmakers were able to create chances off the back of their good work.
With the Raiders still battling injuries and new signing Corey Harawira-Naera not yet ready to play, there is plenty of responsibility on those three forwards who will need to be at their best against a quality Rabbitohs forward pack.
The Rabbitohs went down by just two points to the Knights last week but produced some scintillating footy in the last 15 minutes, particularly through Damien Cook.
Cook showed that if his forward pack give him enough go-forward to create some space, he can tear through any defence with his blistering pace, so the Raiders middle will need to be wary of allowing quick play the balls.
The Raiders were forced to reshuffle their backline with Michael Oldfield suffering a hamstring injury last week, meaning Jordan Rapana will move to centre and Semi Valemei onto the wing.
It also opens the door for another Raider to debut; Harley Smith-Shields has been named on the bench and will become Raider #367.
The Rabbitohs have been dealt two cruel injury blows with James Roberts and Ethan Lowe succumbing to potentially season-ending injuries.
Roberts has been replaced in the centres by Campbell Graham while Lowe has been replaced by Jack Johns who will make his first-grade debut.
Josh Papalii vs Thomas Burgess
Papalii was simply superb last week for the Raiders, running for 218 metres and scoring a try to lead his team to victory. He has become one of the best front rowers in the game and will again play a pivotal role if the Raiders are to win.
Burgess made 179 metres last week and has become the leader of the Rabbitohs pack after his brother Sam retired last year. Both players are around the 120kg mark so hopefully we see some big collisions between the two big fellas.
Siliva Havili and Tom Starling vs Damien Cook
The Havili and Starling combination worked a treat for the Raiders last week with Havili starting the match and using his powerful running game to good effect. Starling came on after 30 minutes and provided a spark in attack while also showing his solid defensive capabilities.
Cook is the most dangerous player in the Rabbitohs lineup and so much of their attack comes through him out of dummy half. If you give him an inch of space, he’ll take a mile, so the Raiders need to shut him down and force other Rabbitohs to create their chances.
|1||Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad||1||Alex Johnston|
|2||Nick Cotric||2||Corey Allan|
|3||Jarrod Croker||3||Campbell Graham|
|4||Jordan Rapana||4||Dane Gagai|
|5||Semi Valemei||5||Jaxson Paulo|
|6||Jack Wighton||6||Cody Walker|
|7||George Williams||7||Adam Reynolds|
|8||Josh Papalii||8||Tevita Tatola|
|9||Siliva Havili||9||Damien Cook|
|10||Dunamis Lui||10||Thomas Burgess|
|11||Hudson Young||11||Jaydn Su’A|
|12||Elliott Whitehead||12||Bayley Sironen|
|13||Kai O’Donnell||13||Cameron Murray|
|14||Tom Starling||14||Mark Nicholls|
|15||Joe Tapine||15||Hame Sele|
|16||Ryan Sutton||16||Patrick Mago|
|17||Harley Smith-Shields||17||Jack Johns|
|18||Sam Williams||18||Kurt Dillon|
|19||Darby Medlyn||19||Keaon Koloamatangi|
|20||Matt Frawley||20||Troy Dargan|
|21||John Bateman||21||Steven Marsters|