Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has been able to name an unchanged squad for Saturday 23rd-round NRL clash against South Sydney at Mount Smart Stadium (7.30pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Suzuki).
The side again features Jazz Tevaga as the starting hooker – in for the injured Issac Luke – with Nathaniel Roache listed to come off the bench as he did in Sunday’s 24-14 win over Gold Coast in Robina.
The 20-year-old 2016 rookies had 40 minutes each on the field against the Titans, making a combined total of 59 tackles with no misses and no ineffective tackles.
“We defended really well as a team against the Titans and Jazz and Nate definitely contributed at a high level,” said McFadden.
“We had a lot of confidence going into the game that they could do the job.
“It was a little different to the way we’ve been playing but it’s great that we can call on anyone and they go out there and do it.”
McFadden said Luke’s operation had gone well yesterday and it was hoped he’d recover quickly to make an anticipated return in the final match of the regular season against Parramatta on Sunday, September 4.
Roache, who made his NRL debut in the opening round of the season, will play his ninth first-grade match on Saturday night having also appeared for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership and NYC sides. Tevaga plays his 11th NRL game and is poised to start for the fifth time.
The rest of the starting combination is the same as the one used against both Penrith and Gold Coast as the Vodafone Warriors hunt a third straight win to retain their position inside the top eight.
They moved into seventh with their success over the Titans but are now one of three teams on 24 points just two behind sixth-placed Brisbane. With their 38-18 victory over the Sydney Roosters last night, Penrith has moved to seventh on points for and against (+3) with the Vodafone Warriors eighth (-7) and Wests Tigers ninth (-47) while Gold Coast is 10th on 23.
In the Rabbitohs, the Vodafone Warriors face opponents who have been struggling this season with the 2014 premiers losing their last nine matches on end. McFadden is extremely wary, though, emphasising the quality players they can call on and the fact they pushed competition leader Melbourne to the brink before losing 14-15 in extra time last Saturday night.
The Vodafone Warriors will be seeking their seventh win in their last 10 matches, a run in which they haven’t lost a match in regulation time (the three defeats have all been in extra time).
Shaun Johnson will play his 21st straight match of the season, the only player in the squad to have played every match.
This will be South Sydney’s first match in Auckland since 2013. The Vodafone Warriors have an 18-11 advantage overall against the Rabbitohs – 9-5 at home – but haven’t beaten them since 2012 and have lost the last four meetings between the two sides.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
7.30pm, Saturday, August 13
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 KEN MAUMALO
3 DAVID FUSITU’A
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 JAZZ TEVAGA
10 ALBERT VETE
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 NATHANIEL ROACHE
15 SAM LISONE
16 BEN MATULINO
17 BLAKE AYSHFORD
18 BUNTY AFOA
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN