South Sydney players insist they’ve seen enough to know they can challenge for the NRL title despite losing their past 10 combined games to Melbourne and Penrith.
Friday night’s 25-12 loss to Penrith has given Souths two weeks to make up ground on their Sydney rivals before an almost certain date in a qualifying final.
Preliminary-finalists for the past three seasons, the Rabbitohs have been unable to make the step up when it matters most against the top teams.
Wayne Bennett’s men suffered another setback on Monday with winger Josh Mansour set to miss the rest of the year with a knee injury.
Beside that Rabbitohs players insist there were mostly positives from Friday’s loss, after they were thumped 50-12 by Penrith earlier in the year and 50-0 by Melbourne.
“Our structures and our defence, I thought it was a lot better,” captain Adam Reynolds said.
“They had 32 minutes in our half in that second half there and we only let in two tries, including a soft (consolation) one at the end there.
“They are up there with the best team attacking wise.
“If there’s any question marks over us before the game it was about our defence. I thought we pretty much stood up to that on the weekend.”
Souths can seriously derail the Sydney Roosters’ bid to join them in the top four with a win over their arch-rivals on Friday night.
There is also the potential of more fireworks, after the Roosters’ plan to target Jai Arrow went overboard in round three.
Not that the Rabbitohs are fussed.
Their eyes firmly remain on fixing the minor issues in their own game before the finals, after not beating either Melbourne or Penrith since 2019.
Diffusing kicks was a real issue against the Panthers on Friday, costing the Rabbitohs good ball and the chance to unleash one of the most potent attacks in the competition.
“We’re a bit more confident that we were this time last year,” Reynolds said.
“We know we can match up with the top two teams. Obviously the scoreline doesn’t reflect that.
“But there’s moments in that game where we well and truly thought we were on top of them, it’s just about doing it consistently for 80 minutes.”
Winger Alex Johnston said: “Even thought we lost if we put it together for 80 minutes we can only really beat ourselves.”
Meanwhile, Mansour’s injury comes as a bitter blow to the winger, after he struggled to earn a regular spot all season.
Jaxson Paulo will likely be the front-runner to take his spot on the right wing, with Taane Milne also in contention.