South Sydney need to buck their recent struggles against top-eight sides if they are to remain in the top half of the NRL ladder.
From 10 games this year, the Rabbitohs have won just one of five matches against top-eight sides – the round nine victory over Wests Tigers being the exception – but have won four of five against bottom sides.
Sitting precariously in eighth spot after a frantic loss to Newcastle last week, South Sydney need to win against the sixth-placed Canberra Raiders in the nation’s capital on Saturday.
Three tries in seven minutes against the Knights almost landed Souths victory last week, reminding Wayne Bennett how good his team can be when mistakes are eliminated.
“It showed everybody what they can do, it’s about going out and getting a better start and giving ourselves a chance at the end of the game,” Bennett said on Friday.
“Newcastle played well, you’ve got to give them some credit.
“We were a bit off the pace early and we got some points scored on us and made the uncharacteristic errors that we can make and can turn into another four or five sets before we see the ball again.
“If we eliminate those things we will have a much better performance.”
Souths will be without second-rower Ethan Lowe and centre James Roberts who were both ruled out for the season after last week’s loss.
It adds to a growing injury toll impacting both clubs.
Canberra are missing seven of their regular starters but are coming off a barnstorming victory over Sydney Roosters in last week’s grand-final rematch.
So dire is their injury toll, coach Ricky Stuart admits he had to name John Bateman on the extended bench this week because he simply did not have enough numbers to fill the squad.
They have since signed Canterbury second-rower Corey Harawira-Naera to add depth to a decimated forward pack.
But even though numbers are low, Stuart is expecting defensive resilience against Souths on Saturday.
“The way they finished their game last week was typical Souths, it’s the Souths we all know,” he said.
“They’re a smart attacking team and they have two very smart halves, they’ll test our defence and we’ve got to make sure we’re on defensively.
“The last few weeks I’ve been very happy with our defensive attitude and execution and that is something we’ve got to keep improving on.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* A win in this match would see the Raiders get consecutive home wins against the Rabbitohs for the first time since 2008.
*South Sydney are conceding the second most penalties (6.2 per game). This is bad news for the Rabbitohs as over 40 per cent of the Raiders’ tries (14 of 33) have come in the set following a penalty this season.
*At GIO Stadium, 11 of the Raiders’ past 12 games have been decided by eight points or less with the only exception being their 24-6 win over the Titans in round one this season.