South Sydney makes its first appearance at Mount Smart Stadium in three years in tonight’s 23rd-round NRL match against the Vodafone Warriors (7.30pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Suzuki).

The last three contests between the two sides were all played in Perth in 2013, 2014 and 2015 while the most recent encounter in Auckland was in April, 2013, when the Rabbitohs won 24-22.

The previous season the Vodafone Warriors put together an impressive display in a 44-22 victory at Mount Smart.

This is the first of three critical home games in the last four rounds of the Vodafone Warriors’ regular season campaign, followed by Wests Tigers on August 28 and the Parramatta Eels on Father’s Day (September 4).

With their win against the Eels last night, the sixth-placed Brisbane Broncos have now moved to 28 points, four clear of Penrith, the Vodafone Warriors and Wests Tigers with Gold Coast a point back on 23 points in 10th spot.

Logic suggests the Vodafone Warriors will need to win each of their three home games to reach 30 points to make the finals for the first time in five years; although 28 points may be enough depending on other results.

They won’t want to leave it to chance as has been the case in recent campaigns, which is why tonight’s battle is so crucial.

While they won the premiership as recently as 2014, the Rabbitohs have struggled the whole season, especially in recent times with a run of nine losses on end including a 4-54 defeat by Canberra two weeks ago.

Of greater significance, though – and a warning if needed – was South Sydney’s effort against competition leader Melbourne last week. Souths had a 14-12 lead only for the Storm to level 14-14 in the last minute and then win 15-14 in golden point.

Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has emphasised the quality the Rabbitohs have in their ranks, evidenced by captain Greg Inglis, former Kangaroo Alex Johnston on the wing, Adam Reynolds in the halves, John Sutton in the second row and three Burgess brothers – Sam, Thomas and George – in the pack.

While the Vodafone Warriors have an 18-11 all-time record against South Sydney and a 9-5 edge at Mount Smart, the Rabbitohs have won eight of the last 12 encounters dating back to 2008.

The Vodafone Warriors have put together a run of six wins and three golden point losses since the start of June, unbeaten in regulation time since losing to Canberra in round 11 in May. In those nine matches they’ve conceded just 150 points (an average of only 16.66 points a game) and have collected 16 points from the last 11 rounds. Their defensive record in their most recent nine games is the third best of all teams behind Melbourne and North Queensland.

 

VODAFONE WARRIORS v SOUTH SYDNEY | MOUNT SMART STADIUM WINS

July 5, 1996 | Vodafone Warriors 24, South Sydney 10

May 12, 2002 | Vodafone Warriors 25, South Sydney 18

April 6, 2003 | Vodafone Warriors 38, South Sydney 16

July 18, 2004 | Vodafone Warriors 34, South Sydney 20

April 3, 2005 | Vodafone Warriors 46, South Sydney 14

April 22, 2006 | Vodafone Warriors 46, South Sydney 14

May 23, 2010 | Vodafone Warriors 26, South Sydney 24

May 22, 2011 | Vodafone Warriors 12, South Sydney 6

April 15, 2012 | Vodafone Warriors 44, South Sydney 22

 

VODAFONE WARRIORS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

7.30pm, Saturday, August 13

Referees: Henry Perenara and Chris James

 

VODAFONE WARRIORS

1        TUIMOALA LOLOHEA (Marist Saints)

2        KEN MAUMALO (Papatoetoe Panthers)

3        DAVID FUSITU’A (Marist Saints)

4        SOLOMONE KATA (Howick Hornets)

5        MANU VATUVEI (Otara Scorpions)

6        THOMAS LEULUAI (Papatoetoe Panthers)

7        SHAUN JOHNSON (Hibiscus Coast Raiders)

8        JACOB LILLYMAN (Richmond Tigers)

9        JAZZ TEVAGA (Papakura Sea Eagles)

10      ALBERT VETE (Mangere East Hawks)

11      BODENE THOMPSON (Tauranga City Sharks)

12      RYAN HOFFMAN (Campbelltown Collegians) (c)

13      SIMON MANNERING (Te Aroha Eels)

Interchange:

14      NATHANIEL ROACHE (Mount Albert Lions)

15      SAM LISONE (Otara Scorpions)

16      BEN MATULINO (Te Aroha Eels)

17      BLAKE AYSHFORD (Paddington Tigers)

18       BUNTY AFOA (Papakura Sea Eagles)

HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN

 

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

1        GREG INGLIS (c)

2        ALEX JOHNSTON

3        HYMEL HUNT

4        AARON GRAY

5        JOE BURGESS

6        CODY WALKER

7        ADAM REYNOLDS

8        THOMAS BURGESS

9        DAMIEN COOK

10       ZANE MUGROVE

11       JOHN SUTTON

12       KYLE TURNER

13       SAM BURGESS

Interchange:

14       JASON CLARK

15      JACK GOSIEWSKI

16       ANGUS CRICHTON

17      GEORGE BURGESS

COACH | MICHAEL MAGUIRE

 

FIVE KEY FEATURES

#1 RYAN HOFFMAN | But for a virus keeping him out of the home game against Gold Coast, Ryan Hoffman would likely have the distinction of playing every minute of the season. As it is he has been on the field each minute of his 19 appearances. Resilience.

#2 JAZZ TEVAGA & NATHANIEL ROACHE | The rookie hookers count just 18 NRL games between them but they will again be relied on to cover the loss of 206-game veteran Issac Luke. They made a combined total of 59 tackles without a miss against the Titans last week.

#3 SIMON MANNERING | Mannering has a big match-up in the middle with Sam Burgess. The ultimate workhorse turns 30 on the day of the Vodafone Warriors’ next home game against Wests Tigers (August 28). His output this season has been as exceptional as ever.

#4 SAM LISONE | The second-year NRL player has been consistently impressive off the bench, typified by his effort against Gold Coast last week when he made a real impact once again. Goes into his 37th match still hunting his first NRL try.

#5 SHAUN JOHNSON | Designated to have the goal-kicking duties for the first time in eight games. He hasn’t been the first-choice since kicking five from six against Newcastle on June 11. He is 16 points short of beating Stacey Jones’ all-time club record of 674 points.

 

TOP STATS | v GOLD COAST TITANS | WON 24-14

Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 3, Gold Coast 4.

Completions | Vodafone Warriors 28/36 (78%), Gold Coast 25/33 (76%).

Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 163, Gold Coast 173.

Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1594, Gold Coast 1428.

Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 5, Gold Coast 3.

Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 33, Gold Coast 16.

Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 14 (325), Gold Coast 21 (380).

Tackles Made | Vodafone Warriors 320, Gold Coast 292.

Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 16, Gold Coast 33.

Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 4, Gold Coast 6.

Errors | Vodafone Warriors 9, Gold Coast 11.

Runs | Vodafone Warriors: Thomas Leuluai 17, Tuimoala Lolohea 15, Simon Mannering 13, Bodene Thompson 13, Ben Matulino 12, Ryan Hoffman 11, Ken Maumalo 11, Manu Vatuvei 11, Solomone Kata 10, Albert Vete 10. Gold Coast: Greg Bird 19, David Mead 18, Luke Douglas 16, Ryan James 14, Zeb Taia 14, Nene MacDonald 13, Jarryd Hayne 10, Anthony Don 10, Josh Hoffman 10.

Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors: Solomone Kata 172, David Fusitu’a 164, Thomas Leuluai 134, Ben Matulino 117, Simon Mannering 113, Ryan Hoffman 109, Tuimoala Lolohea 100. Gold Coast: Greg Bird 157, David Mead 142, Luke Douglas 139, Nene MacDonald 122, Ryan James 118.

Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors: Solomone Kata 7, Bodene Thompson 7, David Fusitu’a 3, Simon Mannering 3. Gold Coast: David Mead 3, Ryan James 3.

Off loads | Vodafone Warriors: Thomas Leuluai 2.

Tackles made | Vodafone Warriors: Simon Mannering 42, Bodene Thompson 35, Jacob Lillyman 32, Jazz Tevaga 30, Nathaniel Roache 29, Ben Matulino 27, Albert 20. Gold Coast: Ryan James 48, Nathan Peats 46, Chris McQueen 34, Luke Douglas 28, Greg Bird 24, Ash Taylor 24.

Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors: Simon Mannering 0, Jazz Tevaga 0, Nathaniel Roache 0, Ben Matulino 0, Albert Vete 0, Sam Lisone 0, Blake Ayshford 0, Manu Vatuvei 0. Gold Coast: Chris McQueen 0, Jarryd Hayne 0, David Shillington 0, Nene MacDonald 0.

Supports | Vodafone Warriors: Manu Vatuvei 11, Solomone Kata 9, Ryan Hoffman 7. Gold Coast: Zeb Taia 9, Ryan James 6.

Decoys | Vodafone Warriors: Simon Mannering 7, Sam Lisone 7, Jacob Lillyman 4. Gold Coast: Ryan James 8, Luke Douglas 7.

 

RECORD | v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

Overall Record | Played 29, Vodafone Warriors 18, South Sydney 11.

At Mount Smart Stadium | Played 14, Won 9, Lost 5.

Last 10 Games (home and away) | Vodafone Warriors 6, South Sydney 4.

 

MILESTONES

Vodafone Warriors debuts | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (#203), Blake Ayshford (#204), Jeff Robson (#205), Issac Luke (#206), Nathaniel Roache (#207) and James Gavet (#208) made their debuts for the Vodafone Warriors against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on March 5 (Round 1).

Jazz Tevaga (#209) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Melbourne at Mount Smart Stadium on March 20 (Round 3).

Ligi Sao (#210) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Canterbury-Bankstown at Westpac Stadium on April 16 (Round 7).

Shaun Lane (#211) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium on May 1 (Round 9).

Toafofoa Sipley (#212) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium on May 1 (Round 9).

Bunty Afoa (#213) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Gold Coast at Mount Smart Stadium on July 2 (Round 17).

NRL debuts | Nathaniel Roache made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on March 5 (Round 1).

Jazz Tevaga (#209) made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Melbourne at Mount Smart Stadium on March 20 (Round 3).

Toafofoa Sipley (#212) made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium on May 1 (Round 9).

Bunty Afoa (#213) made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Gold Coast at Mount Smart Stadium on July 2 (Round 17).

Most NRL appearances for Vodafone Warriors | Simon Mannering plays his 255th NRL game (Stacey Jones’ record is 261).

250 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Simon Mannering plays his 255th NRL game.

200 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Ben Matulino plays his 193rd NRL game.

200 NRL games (overall) | Issac Luke has played 206 NRL games; 18 for the Vodafone Warriors after appearing in 188 matches for South Sydney.

150 NRL games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 164th game for the Vodafone Warriors (record for the most games for the club by an Australian player). It’s the 226th in his career including 62 for North Queensland.

150 NRL games (overall) | Blake Ayshford plays his 144th NRL game after appearing in 104 for Wests Tigers and 20 for Cronulla.

50 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Sione Lousi played his 50th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra on May 1; Tuimoala Lolohea plays his 46th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors; Solomone Kata plays his 43rd NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors.

150 NRL tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 150 tries in 221 NRL appearances. He scored his 150th try in the match against Canberra on July 23 becoming only the 11th player in the competition’s 108-year to achieve the feat. Vatuvei is 11th on the all-time list. The only current players ahead of him are Billy Slater (172 in 278 games) and Brett Stewart (163 in 233 games).

10 tries or more in a season | Manu Vatuvei has the all-time NRL record as the only player in history to have scored 10 tries or more in 10 consecutive seasons; he achieved this from 2006-2015.

600 NRL points | Shaun Johnson has scored 659 points (Stacey Jones’ club record is 674); Manu Vatuvei has scored 600 points, third on the club’s list of all-time points-scorers.

500 NRL points | Issac Luke has scored 470 points.

50 NRL tries | Shaun Johnson has 55 tries; Simon Mannering has 55 tries; Blake Ayshford has 42 tries; Issac Luke has 39 tries; Jonathan Wright has 36 tries.

50 NRL games as NRL coach (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Andrew McFadden coaches the Vodafone Warriors for the 64th time. His record in 63 games is 29 wins, 34 losses.

250 games at Mount Smart Stadium | The Vodafone Warriors’ play their 252nd game at Mount Smart Stadium this week (they have so far played 248 regular season games plus three home finals at Mount Smart Stadium).

2000 tries in the NRL | 1991 (1995-2016)

 

BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS www.tab.co.nz

Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.33, South Sydney Rabbitohs $3.10

GO TO TAB.CO.NZ FOR ALL ODDS | VODAFONE WARRIORS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

 

TV COVERAGE

SKY SPORT 2: Live from 7.00pm (kick-off 7.30pm NZT), Sunday, August 13