South Sydney NRL coach Michael Maguire says an injury-riddled North Queensland will still be a tough opponent to beat in Townsville.
Thrashed by North Queensland last time they went to Townsville, South Sydney are wary of a desperate Cowboys outfit in Saturday’s NRL clash.
The Rabbitohs were beaten 30-12 by the Cowboys in round 21 last year at 1300SMILES Stadium, a result the team hasn’t forgotten.
Coach Michael Maguire says the Cowboys’ back-to-back losses coming into the game and the absence of Queensland State of Origin pair Brent Tate (knee) and Matt Scott (cheek) mean little, given North Queensland’s strong record at home this year.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re focused about what we need to do up in North Queensland,” Maguire said.
“We’re playing against a team that play very well at home – I think they’re six from seven up there – so we’re well aware of what we’re walking into.
“They play an expansive game, they start quick, they really attack with the ball and they force a lot of errors.”
Just getting to Townsville proved problematic for the visitors with a power outage at Sydney Airport on Friday resulting in their flight being cancelled.
A bye last weekend will ensure the Rabbitohs are refreshed despite their travel woes with Origin stars Greg Inglis, Chris McQueen and Ben Te’o all returning to the line-up.
It’s a different story for the Cowboys, who need to pick up points to stay in touch with the top eight.
Ray Thompson joins Tate and Scott on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury in Monday night’s loss to Newcastle, meaning Robert Lui will start at five-eighth and Johnathan Thurston moves into the Cowboys’ No.7 jersey for the first time in almost three years.
The forward pack has also been shuffled with Glenn Hall dropping back to the bench for Jason Taumalolo as Scott Bolton moves to prop and Tariq Sims to lock. Anthony Mitchell has been named on the bench as utility cover.
Cowboys coach Paul Green, who denies his team are in crisis despite a lack of form and crucial injuries, is confident his players will prove their worth against the in-form Rabbitohs, who have won their past four matches.
“We’ll be right. We’ll knuckle down, band together and fight our way out,” Green said.
“There was some good stuff out of the game the other night.
“There was some play that could have been a lot better and we didn’t get the result we wanted.
“When the pressure comes on, we need to stick tight.”