NRL Finals Prediction: Cronulla Sharks vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

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This elimination final pits two Sydney clubs against each other for the first time in the finals. Will the defending premiers live to fight another week or will the Sharks bounce back from last week’s disappointment? Rugby league writer Daniel Boss provides his thoughts for Sunday’s elimination final below.

Round 26 Review

Neither side had much to write home about in Round 26 with Souths being humiliated by the Roosters and Cronulla missing out on a top 4 berth courtesy of their narrow loss to Manly. Of the two, Cronulla undoubtedly enter the finals with greater confidence, especially considering the off-field antics of George Burgess which will likely see Souths head into this Elimination Final without their most effective forward. The Sharks meanwhile look set to add to the side which ran out against Manly, with the Fifita brothers cleared to return following a lengthy suspension.

2015 Season Results

  • Lock of the Week: 17/26
  • Upset of the Week: 15/26
  • Season Record: 112/192

NRL Finals Prediction: Cronulla Sharks vs South Sydney Rabbitohs Preview

2015 Sharks v Rabbitohs Matches

Round 7 – Cronulla Sharks beat South Sydney Rabbitohs 18-10, Remondis Stadium

Previous Finals Match

First finals match

2015 Regular Season Statistics

Cronulla Sharks

  • Points Scored: 469, 19.5 per game, ranked 7th
  • Points Conceded: 476, 19.8 per game, ranked 7th

South Sydney Rabbitohs

  • Points Scored: 465, 19.4 per game, ranked 9th
  • Points Conceded: 467, 19.5 per game, ranked 6th

Team Changes

Cronulla Sharks

  • In: Ben Barba, Andrew Fifita, David Fifita (all extended bench)

South Sydney Rabbitohs

  • In: Greg Inglis (fullback), David Tyrrell (prop)
  • Out: Joel Reddy (omitted), George Burgess (suspension)

The Sharks v Rabbitohs Story

The histories of both clubs provide probably the greatest contrast that can be found when comparing any two NRL sides. South Sydney’s history is highly revered, having won 21 premierships and are currently the defending premiers. On the other hand, Cronulla are currently playing their 49th season and have yet to win one premiership. Sorry for bringing this fact up again Cronulla fans.

Cronulla’s recent slip in form could not have come at a worse time. Prior to last round, the Sharks won 10 of their previous 12 games and looked like clinching an unlikely top 4 position. However, a highly disappointing loss to Manly in the last round, at home no less, leave the Sharks with a task of winning four in a row to clinch their maiden premiership. With that said, the Sharks do possess a good mix of youth and experience. Their young stars Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes seem to be the type of players that aren’t affected by a big game environment.

If Cronulla have had a slight dip in form, then Souths have had a massive fall over the past few weeks. They come into the finals having won only one of their past five games, with that win being a highly impressive effort over the Cowboys in Townsville. The Rabbits have not had a good run with injuries this year, with John Sutton out for the season and Greg Inglis only just recovering from a knee injury. Isaac Luke is also out of this game through suspension, which is a big absence. If Souths are to win to back-to-back premierships, they will have to do it the hard way.

Key Matchups

Jack Bird vs Luke Keary

The first matchup pits two good, young players against one another. There isn’t going to be too many occasions where both players will directly be opposed to one another, but both can provide x-factors for their respective teams. However, both players provide this in different ways. Bird is a strong ball-running half, who leads the side through his competitiveness and composure. On the other hand, Keary’s value is in his ball-playing ability, which takes pressure off Adam Reynolds and allows Reynolds to focus on directing the team around the field and providing a good kicking game. I get the feeling that a big play from either five-eight will have a big influence on the winner of this game.

Sosaia Feki vs Alex Johnston

This matchup will see two players directly opposed from one another and it features two wingers with very strong try finishing ability. Both players are also not overly big wingers either, which makes their efforts even more impressive. Feki is a highly underrated player, as he has no big weaknesses and is a consistent performer. Conversely, Johnston has been a little up and down in 2015, but this has been partly due to the inconsistent nature of Souths’ form this season. I do think Johnston will be good in this game, with Greg Inglis back in the side, bringing more stability to Souths’ backline.

Wade Graham vs Glenn Stewart

The last matchup features two players that line up in the forwards but offer a lot for each side in attack. As a result, both are capable of playing in the halves, if required. Both Graham and Stewart are highly experienced players, who have experienced representative football in their careers. Graham’s main strengths in attack are his strong ball running ability and his option as a left-footed kicker, which takes a lot of pressure off Robson, as Jack Bird does not possess a strong kicking game. Stewart’s main strength is his ball-playing ability, which provides space for Greg Inglis to attack the defensive line.

Sharks v Rabbitohs Prediction

This is unquestionably the most difficult game of the week to pick, as both sides have a lot of questions that remain unanswered. Will the Sharks be able to overcome the big disappointment of last week? Will Souths be able to match it in the forwards without George Burgess? Will GI be fully fit? The answers to these questions will only be known on Sunday at 6pm. Having the game on Sunday will help Cronulla overcome the disappointment of last week. They also have a highly experienced squad that has overcome adversity in the past and I expect them to not be affected much as a result. If I was the coach of Cronulla, I would play both Ben Barba and Andrew Fifita from the bench. The reason for this being that the Sharks lacked attacking spark against Manly last week and they will need to score more than 10 points to beat Souths. Souths will certainly miss George Burgess, but they still have a solid forward pack. If they can prevent the Sharks pack from dominating, then they have every chance to win this game. The Sharks pack have ex-back rowers starting at prop, which means that it isn’t an unachievable task. In the past four games played between these sides, played over the past three years, no team has scored 20 points or more in any game. I expect this trend to continue, but I see an upset happening, most likely from a big play from Greg Inglis

Final Prediction: South Sydney 18 – 14 Cronulla Sharks

Don’t forget to LIKE us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @BlindsideSport for a reminder as to when our Predictions are published each week! Daniel Boss can also be found on Twitter @DanielNBoss.

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