South Sydney NRL coach Michael Maguire wants harder running and tackling from his side against a Bulldogs side he expects to target them up the middle.

South Sydney coach Michael Maguire is exhorting his troops to simply run and tackle harder against a Bulldogs side he expects to target them up the middle in Thursday’s big NRL clash at ANZ Stadium.

Widely tagged premiership favourites following a five-match winning streak, the Bunnies were upset 22-10 at home by North Queensland last Saturday.

They remain second, two points behind pace-setting Manly, level on points with the Roosters and Panthers, and just two points ahead of Melbourne and the Bulldogs.

Maguire feels the lesson learnt out of the loss to the Cowboys was his players needed to be focused every week.

“The basics of the game let us down against the Cowboys,” Maguire said.

“We just didn’t run hard and tackle hard. That was what the opposition did and they did it very well.

“Prior to the game against the Cowboys we had good momentum and we’ve got to make sure we look at the things that we were doing in those games, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Maguire was pleased with the injury progress of Adam Reynolds (hamstring tightness) and John Sutton (knee) and suggested they could both line up against the Bulldogs.

“Reyno, he’s actually good, it was more just a bit of a spasm in his back,” Maguire said.

“I think it was more of a scare for Adam.

“Sutto, he’s coming along well. We’ve just got to challenge him again tomorrow with training and we’ll see how we go from there,” Maguire said.

He said he had the option of playing Sutton in either the forwards or backs if he returned against the Bulldogs.

With Reynolds and Luke Keary developing their halves partnership nicely, Maguire is likely start with that combination again.

He expected the resurgent Bulldogs, coming off back to back wins, to challenge his big pack.

“They challenge you through the middle so the test will be in the middle,” Maguire said.

“They’ve spent more than half a season in the top four so we’re playing against a quality team.”

Maguire wasn’t concerned about the short five-day turnaround between games.

“We had some good practice over the last month,” Maguire said.

“We had four games in about 17, 18 days so the preparation doesn’t change too much from what we’ve been doing.”