Rabbitohs vow not to underestimate Manly

South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett is taking nothing for granted against a depleted Manly side.
South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett is taking nothing for granted against a depleted Manly side.

After engaging in two nail-biting battles this year, South Sydney are refusing to fall victim to underestimating a Tom Trbojevic-less Manly during Friday's must-win NRL semi-final.

The Sea Eagles were given short shrift by the pundits and bookies after their star No.1 was ruled out for the rest of the year with a pectoral injury.

But they in true Manly fashion, they defied the odds to shock Cronulla in the first week of the finals to prove coach Des Hasler had them primed to shake a few cages in the post-season.

The Sharks were accused in some quarters of underestimating the Sea Eagles and had no response after they shot out to a fast start.

But Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett said they wouldn't fall victim to the same trap, pledging his admiration having played each other twice this year and on both occasions being separated by a field goal.

If the sudden-death ANZ Stadium clash is decided by a field goal, it will be just the third time in history two sides have been separated by one point in three consecutive matches.

"We played them twice and Tom only played half a game against us," Bennett said.

"Both times a drop goal was the difference between the teams. I learned a long time ago they were getting on with life without Tom.

"They've done that and they've had some really good wins and they're a quality footy team."

The match shapes as a battle between two hardened engine rooms who will be boosted by the return of key enforcers from suspension in Souths skipper Sam Burgess and Manly's Martin Taupau.

Burgess is dealing with the fallout after venting his frustrations at the NRL judiciary system after he missed last week's loss to the Sydney Roosters for a hair pull.

Dane Gagai also returns from a hamstring complaint and will plug a hole on their left edge, which struggled last week.

"I thought they were outstanding in the round 25 match when they beat the Roosters," Hasler said.

"Obviously the Roosters ambushed them the following week. But then they settled down and managed to win the second half 6-4.

"They got Sam back, so they're a pretty experienced. It'll be a different South Sydney to the one we saw last week against the Roosters."

STATS THAT MATTER

* Adam Reynolds is one point away from 1400 career points and would become just the second Rabbitoh to reach this mark behind Eric Simms (1841 points from 1965-75).

* Manly has lost nine straight games at ANZ Stadium. If they lose this game, it will be their equal longest losing streak at a venue along with their 10 straight losses at Shark Park (1987-2006).

Australian Associated Press