Michael Ennis
Michael Ennis

'''VENUE & TIME:''' ANZ Stadium, Saturday, September 22, 7.45pm (AEST), 9.45pm (NZT)
'''COVERAGE:''' Channel 9/Sky Sport
'''HEAD TO HEAD''' Played: 144, Bulldogs 76, Rabbitohs 64, 4 draws
'''LAST TIME:''' Bulldogs 23 def Rabbitohs 18, June 2, 2012
'''LAST TIME IN FINALS:''' Bulldogs 16 def Rabbitohs 2, Major Preliminary Semi, September 7, 1986, SCG

Canterbury coach Des Hasler has had the luxury of naming an unchanged squad to the one that took care of Manly in the qualifying final a fortnight ago. With the benefit of a week's rest, the Bulldogs players will have been able to treat any niggling problems and should be well rested.

The Rabbitohs welcome back winger Nathan Merritt after the veteran flyer missed last weekend's win over Canberra with a shoulder injury. Merritt will play in his 200th NRL game. His inclusion means Justin Hunt drops back to an extended bench alongside Jason Clark (ankle), who is also eligible again after injury.

The Bulldogs had their feet up last weekend and would have needed the break after a bruising win over the Sea Eagles in the first week of the finals. Not only have Canterbury won 14 of their last 15 matches, they also boast 11 wins from their last 14 at ANZ and have come out on top in six of their last eight clashes against South Sydney.

Michael Maguire's troops kept their season alive - and emphatically shot down any suggestions of semi-final stage fright - with their 38-16 dismantling of the Raiders last Saturday night. It was typical South Sydney. Blow their opponents away with a devastating spell, clock off and allow them back into the game, before regrouping, finding a second wind and racking up a big score. It's great when it's enough to win but a repeat won't be good enough against the Bulldogs.

Dominate the wrestle. They have done it so well all season and if the Bulldogs can again win the battle of the ruck they should have too much consistency and firepower for Souths. While the Bunnies boast a pretty formidable forward pack, Canterbury's big hombres possess much more skill which has been a feature of their attack all season long. Hasler has been impressed by the demeanour of Michael Ennis since the calendar turned over to September. The skipper is desperate to get his side to a GF and will use any means to get it done. Along with five-eighth Josh Reynolds there's no one better at getting under the skin of the opposition.

Play for 80 minutes. The Bunnies have struggled to play their best football over the duration of a whole match but to win the big matches it simply must be done. It's why they haven't been able to beat any of the top four sides this season and that stat won't change this week unless they cut out the lapses. Star fullback Greg Inglis was quiet against the Raiders last week which is a good thing for Maguire. The brilliant No.1 won't let that happen two weeks in a row. The guile and speed of Issac Luke out of dummy-half will again be pivotal, as will the kicking game of Adam Reynolds and John Sutton. The Bulldogs back three is probably the best of any side left in the comp and they can't be allowed to bring the ball back in dangerous areas.

'''WE THINK:'''
The Rabbitohs bounced back to their dangerous best last week against Canberra but won't find the going so easy against the gritty Bulldogs. On the back of their ferocious forwards and the brilliance of Ben Barba, Hasler's side has proven all season they are a tough proposition and there's nothing to suggest they won't be at their best here. South Sydney's best bet will be if the referees speed up the ruck and allow quick play-the-balls for Issac Luke to exploit. The Dogs were given a lot of latitude in their win over Manly and if it's similar type of game then they will strangle the life out of the Bunnies attack. It should be a heck of a game but you can't go past the minor premiers. '''Bulldogs''' by 8 points.

1.Ben Barba, 2. Sam Perrett, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Krisnan Inu, 5. Jonathan Wright, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Kris Keating, 8. Aiden Tolman, 9. Michael Ennis, 10. Sam Kasiano, 11. Frank Pritchard, 12. Josh Jackson, 13. Greg Eastwood
Interchange: 14. James Graham, 15. Dale Finucane, 16. Corey Payne, 17. David Stagg, 18. Dene Halatau (one to be omitted)

1.Greg Inglis, 2. Nathan Merritt, 3. Chris McQueen, 4. Dylan Farrell, 5.Andrew Everingham, 6. John Sutton, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Luke Burgess, 9. Issac Luke, 10. Roy Asotasi, 11.Sam Burgess, 12. Dave Taylor, 13. Michael Crocker
Interchange: 14. Nathan Peats, 15. Dave Tyrell, 16. Eddy Pettybourne, 17. Ben Lowe, 18. Justin Hunt, 19. Jason Clark (two to be omitted)

Referees: Shayne Hayne/Ben Cummins
Video Referee: Chris Ward/Bernard Sutton


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