It might be a clash against the twelfth placed Rabbitohs but Penrith coach Anthony Griffin is wary of what South Sydney have to offer ahead of tomorrow's must-win clash at ANZ Stadium.
Matt Moylan missed Penrith's 21-20 loss to Souths earlier this year. Credit: Penrith Panthers.
Despite being without key players Greg Inglis and Kyle Turner, Souths have still named a formidable side that belies their current position on the NRL ladder, with the likes of Cody Walker, Alex Johnston, John Sutton, Adam Reynolds and Robbie Farah.
But its inform back-rower Angus Crichton, along with the return from injury of Sam Burgess that coach Griffin concedes are the greatest threats to a Penrith side that is looking to overcome their ANZ Stadium voodoo against the Rabbitohs, having yet to defeat the red and myrtle at the venue in six attempts.
"They're a really good side Souths right across the park, especially with the forward strength they have with the Burgess's," Griffin admitted.
"(Crichton's) a big boy, scored a few tries in their last outing and sort of watched him before we played last time, he's been coming for a while.," Griffin said.
"It's only probably been the last month that his form has really taken off, so he gives them strike on both sides there now.
"And (Sam) Burgess floats around, can hit through the middle or on either edge so those big back-rowers are a real key for them that we are going to have to contain."
Despite the heartbreak of last week's late loss to the Cowboys, Griffin says the defensive effort will hold the team in good stead as they look to win at least six of their last ten games just to qualify for the top eight.
But while he has been happy with the improved form of his side especially in defence, Griffin says they will need to improve on their poor completion rates against both Canberra and North Queensland, if they are going to give their newly formed spine combination of Dylan Edwards, Matt Moylan, Nathan Cleary and Mitch Rein enough quality possession to win.
The inclusion of Dylan Edwards has made a difference to Penrith's attack. Credit 77 Media.
"It was very disappointing (to lose to the Cowboys) but while sometimes you don't win on the scoreboard, I thought effort-wise last week was a real show of character by the team the way they nearly defended that out so it gives us a lot of confidence," Griffin declared.
"We went through a patch where we weren't at our best but the last month and a bit has been really good.
"We've been able to put the same team out a few weeks in a row, which has been a first time for a long time as well which helps.
"Obviously that whole combination (is still in its infancy) with Dylan Edwards in there as well.
But Matt and Nathan have played together a lot with Matt being at fullback as well so that's helped.
"With Dylan coming in that has provided a lot of energy.
"He's a great support player and a great runner of the football and I think that gives Matt and Nathan a few options.
"They've been building and they're going to have to continue building.
"But hopefully tomorrow we get our completion rate something more respectable than what's its been and they get a bit more quality ball.
"If we can get that we can get a little bit more rhythm with the ball and hopefully we can get a few more points.
Whilst Griffin is looking for his team to further improve in defence, he equally would be hoping not for too many more defensive efforts like the one last week which saw the Panthers make over 400 tackles, adding that the defensive effort in the Townsville heat meant his side needed an extra day's rest before preparing for tomorrow's clash.
"For us it was hot day up there last Saturday and we got through about 429 tackles, which is as many as I can remember," Griffin said.
"Luckily we had a long week so we gave them an extra day off early in the week.
"But they're a good group, they're very fit and they have built up nicely into today's session.
In team news, Viliame Kikau's demotion to the Intrust Super Premiership team that defeated North Sydney 17-10 last night, means a recall for Sitaleki Akauola.
While on the injury front, Griffin confirmed injured trio James Fisher-Harris (Hamstring - 1 week), Peter Wallace (Groin - 2-3 weeks) and Bryce Cartwright (Knee - 4 weeks) are due to return in the not too-distant future.
The news on Cartwright return within a month is especially encouraging given there were suggestions the knee injury could have been season-ending.
V SOUTHS: Played 79, Won 34, Lost 44, Drawn 1
@ ANZ STADIUM: Played 6, Lost 6
LAST 5: Won 2, Lost 3
Josh Mansour requires 1 try to become the 12th Panther to score 50 first grade tries for the club.
Souths' Dave Tyrrell and George Burgess play their 150th and 100th NRL game respectively.