AAP Rugby

Rabbitohs ready to shift into top gear

By AAP Newswire

Nearing full strength and with a healthy Sam Burgess finally back on deck, South Sydney are threatening to click into top gear a month out from the NRL finals.

The Rabbitohs have been a shadow of the side that won 10 of their first 11 games in their best start to a season in 30 years.

But coach Wayne Bennett insists his top-four aspirants aren't as far off as some fans may think entering Saturday night's crucial clash with in-form Canterbury.

Souths' 26-16 loss to ladder leaders Melbourne last Sunday was their sixth defeat from their past nine starts, but also convinced Bennett that the Rabbitohs were genuine title contenders.

"Look, we've played every team in the comp now. We hadn't played the Storm up until the weekend," Bennett said on Friday.

"So we know what we bring. It was a test for us.

"They're the best team at the moment in the competition so we had to find out where we kind of stood with all that and we walked away with enough confidence that if we play well and play to the standards that we want to play to, then we're a chance in September."

Especially if Burgess fires up.

The game's premier prop has missed half the season after requiring shoulder surgery before sitting out the Storm game with a quad strain.

But the inspirational skipper, along with halfback Adam Reynolds, who has been nursing a sore back, were both confirmed starters after moving freely at Friday's captain's run.

"Sam looked pretty good this morning so we're pretty happy with it all. The staff's happy with him and he's happy with himself, so he'll play," Bennett said.

"He's obviously excited about playing. He played two weeks ago but he just put the jersey on - he didn't really play but he went out.

"This time I hope he plays."

Despite still languishing in second-last spot on the table, the Bulldogs have won four of their past six matches and are intent on finishing the season as finals spoilers for their rivals above them.

"The Bulldogs have been going really well and playing some good footy so we'll have to play well tomorrow night. We know that," Bennett said.

"We're capable of doing that and this is the time of the year that you want to play well."

THE STATS THAT MATTER

- Souths are chasing five straight wins over Canterbury for the first time since winning nine consecutive from 1967 to 1971.

- The Rabbitohs must win to regain a top-four spot after Manly climbed above them with victory over Wests Tigers.

The Bulldogs are eyeing three successive wins for the first time since finishing the 2017 season with a hat-trick of victories.