Cronulla Sharks entertain the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the second semi-final on Saturday evening and we could be in for another tight encounter.
The Sharks lost their qualifying final against North Queensland Cowboys on a golden point but now get a second chance to book their place in a preliminary final against Penrith Panthers.
Standing in their way are the Rabbitohs who should be on a high after beating the Sydney Roosters in a bruising and thrilling elimination final last Sunday.
They look to be two very evenly matched sides. The Sharks have been far more consistent all season, hence their second-place finish on the ladder.
However the Rabbitohs have been picking up steam towards the end of the season and have a team full of game-changers.
It is tough to say which way this one will go but there is a very good chance that all supporters of rugby league will be in for a treat on Saturday.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at both sides as kick-off at the brand new Allianz Stadium in Sydney fast approaches.
What: Cronulla Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Where: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
When: 20:00 (AEST) Saturday 17th September 2022
How to watch: Channel 9, Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Eels 11/10, Raiders 3/4
Both the Sharks and the Rabbitohs head into the game on the back of tough encounters last week and who wins this one could come down to who has recovered better.
Cronulla had to play 10 minutes of extra time and then four minutes of golden point before Cowboys ace Valentine Holmes slotted a field goal to break their hearts.
Not only will the Sharks have to recover from 94 minutes of gruelling footy, they will also have to pick themselves up emotionally following last week’s last-gasp defeat that would have hit them hard.
However Craig Fitzgibbon’s side have shown throughout 2022 that they are capable of bouncing back from a setback and should be fired up to face the bunnies in front of a packed Allianz Stadium.
Playing at the new stadium may not be the best outcome for them however. They are hosting the semi-final but could feel as though they are very much in Rabbitohs territory.
The much more hostile environment of Shark Park would have been a better venue for them and it will be interesting to see if it has an impact on the outcome of the game.
Cronulla have beaten the Rabbitohs already this season and that was another golden-point thriller as the Sharks claimed it 21-20 with Nicho Hynes the hero with a drop-goal.
It would be no surprise if we had such drama once again and Hynes will be key to Cronulla’s chances of going through.
Fellow playmaker Matt Moylan will also be key, while the Sharks also have plenty of power in the forwards with Toby Rudolf, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Dale Finucane all in great form this season.
The battle in the halves will also be crucial with Moylan and Hynes up against Cody Walker and Lachlan Ilias.
Moylan has 12 try assists this season, but Walker has been back to his very best in recent weeks, while Ilias has filled the void left by the departure of Adam Reynolds to Brisbane.
Souths coach Jason Demetriou had every faith that the 22-year-old had what it takes to replace Reynolds, and he has repaid that faith in shovel loads.
Meanwhile, the combination between Walker and star fullback Latrell Mitchell is also huge for the Rabbitohs. They are also good mates away from the field which helps their relationship on it.
If those two are firing then the Sharks could be in for a tough night.
As far as team news goes, the Sharks have been hit by a huge double blow that could severely harm their chances of going through.
Both Siosifa Talakai and Royce Hunt have been ruled out so Hamlin-Uele will come in to replace the latter. Connor Tracey will move to centre to replace Talakai with Lachlan Miller set to play on the wing.
Souths will be without Tom Burgess, who has been hit by a two-match suspension and will only play again this season if they make the grand final. Michael Chee Kam comes on to the bench to replace him.
But they have no other issues and came through the bruising encounter against the Rabbitohs without any serious issues.