Souths braced for toughest Penrith task

·3-min read

Jason Demetriou has told his South Sydney players to come prepared for a war of attrition if they want to knock reigning premiers Penrith off their perch.

By demolishing Cronulla at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, Souths set up a preliminary final - and a tantalising grand final rematch - with the Panthers at Accor Stadium.

In an ominous sign for their reunion with Penrith, fullback Latrell Mitchell and five-eighth Cody Walker remained in second gear in their 38-12 win over the Sharks, which ensured the Bunnies reached a fifth straight preliminary final.

The Panthers, who have lost just four games all season, will go into next Saturday's game oozing with confidence.

Their first-choice side have played a game a fortnight over the last month, while Souths have been put through the ringer.

But while Mitchell cheekily said in a post-game interview with the Nine Network he was happy Souths were on the "right side of the draw", coach Demetriou described the challenge as the NRL equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.

"I think Latrell means it's a game where we are getting them before the GF," Demetriou said.

"They (Penrith) are a highly motivated team and they work really hard for each other.

"We're under no illusions that this is the hardest task in the game at the moment.

"I think over the last three years, they've been pretty hard to beat.

"We can't just think that to beat Penrith, we can go set for set and hope that we can win 6-4 - we've got to challenge the scoreboard."

Since the start of the 2020 season, Souths have only defeated Penrith once in eight attempts, producing a shock upset in week one of the 2021 finals series before being pipped by the Panthers in the grand final.

The Rabbitohs kept a lid on celebrations, with Souths hooker Damien Cook telling reporters they would need to take their game to new heights next week.

"After the game we weren't jumping around and carrying on about how excited we are because the job's not done," Cook said.

"We can't be making easy errors and giving up field position because Nathan and Jarome can keep us locked down in our end and do what they did to us in the grand final.

"We've got to be really clean coming out of our own end and be disciplined as well."

There are also injury concerns for forwards Jai Arrow and Siliva Havili along with winger Alex Johnston, but Cook said the Rabbitohs thrived when the odds were against them.

"Backs against the wall brings out the best in us," he said.

"We just need to make sure stay calm in those situations and stick to our footy and not let the other team dictate how we defend or attack."

Whoever lines up for the Bunnies, no further motivation will be needed after last year's loss.

"For this group, it's about going one better than last year and that's where the mindset went straight after the game," Demetriou said.

"We'll put our gloves on, we'll step into the ring and we'll have a crack.

"We're here for a reason and we've got to believe in that and turn up ready for a war next week."