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Preview 07: South Sydney - Australian Rugby league News
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globalrugbyleague - Wed, 07 Mar 2007 11:32:00 GMT
South Sydney will be marching to the beat of improvement in 2007 thanks to some very good off-season acquisitions.

Moving in at the club are some high calibre players in the form of David Kidwell, Roy Asotasi, Nigel Vagana, Jeremy Smith and Dean Widders.

The Burrow will also welcome with open arms their fourth coach since the Rabbitohs returned to the NRL in 2002, Jason Taylor.

How much stronger the team will fare by the end of round 25 will depend on a lot of unforeseen factors which won’t be revealed until the ‘real’ new-season commences.

Historically a new coach brings the best out of the Rabbitohs in the opening fixtures of a new season.

In 2003, Paul Langmack almost pulled off upset wins over the Bulldogs and Brisbane in the first two rounds before the team drifted away once again into the abyss.

When Langmack had his tenure pulled under his feet in 2004, Arthur Kitinas took over as caretaker coach and achieved something Langmack could not. Consecutive wins against Melbourne and Manly.

Under Shaun ‘Bomber’ McRae in 2005, the red and green showed early signs of progression when they defeated Parramatta for the first time in a decade in the second week of action.

Unfortunately, there have been too many false starts to the season for South Sydney since they were re-admitted and that has left many of the faithful approaching this season cautious.

The Coach:

The former North Sydney halfback added another accomplishment to his CV last season when he became the first caretaker coach to take over a club mid-season and make the finals.

Jason Taylor is a breath of fresh air in the joint and was never going to be an assistant coach for very long as was his job description when he originally signed on with Souths.

He only finished his NRL playing career in 2001, so he remains in tune with the trends that the game is taking and can still offer a contemporary view of a former players perspective.

JT also won a premier league title with the Eels in 2005.

New ideas and a bit more fun will be injected into training sessions down at Erskinville Oval while some careers that were not progressing under McRae will be resurrected.

The big task for Taylor this season is getting his squad to play for the full eighty minutes in more of their games. If he can do that, some overrated oppositions will fall.

Last year the Rabbitohs lost four games by two-point margins and it’s these close games where Taylor should impact almost immediately.

New kids on the block:

The forwards are getting bigger and better at this club every season and that can only make life harder for the attacking brilliance of other teams.

Roy Asotasi will bring a ‘take no steps backward' mentality that he applied while at Canterbury and this attitude will flow onto the others. He’ll chew up the metres

With Asotasi, Cusack, Kidwell and Joe Galuvao up front, there should be no more ‘easy’ wins for clubs.

Kidwell showed against Australia in the Tri-Nations that he is happy to play the role of the enforcer against anyone including Willie Mason.

He needs to produce more of those sporadic bursts of energy but this must be timed carefully. You don’t’ want to open up a hole nor do you want to hit the player too high.

This is where his coach must work on his defensive techniques.

Souths need Kidwell in all of their games this season if they are to do something they haven’t done in a long time. Intimidate other teams.

The media remains unconvinced about South Sydney’s options in the backs, particularly in their halves department.

Joe Williams played too many premier league games last season to convince the ‘experts’ he is the answer.

Yet those same experts were more then happy to predict big things for the Roosters when Braith Anasta opted to head East in 2005 instead of playing for his Uncle’s old team.

Anasta in the end scored no tries in 2006 and will now play the role of lock-forward.

Williams was a last-resort halfback under McRae and this probably did nothing for his confidence when he was called into the squad.

This year more faith is being shown in Williams and that could be the key to re-igniting some of his lost form. There is no doubt he can play well.

But he needs to produce his excellence more often and that’s the challenge he faces if he doesn’t want Jeremy Smith to take his job.

Jeremy Smith was involved in leading the Eels on a 9-game winning streak last season which helped the Eels make the eight when everyone said their season was over.

Those people will probably shell out the same criticism if South Sydney takes time to gell. Smith though appears to thrive on the challenge of improving his game.

He is a dark horse in the number 7 jersey and he’s proven he can get the job done and play consistent football.

Smith’s goal this year is to rid himself of the ‘second-choice’ tag and if he were to help orchestrate a long winning streak for Souths, this could go a long way in doing that.

Injuries:

They’ve bought well but does the club have quality back up players to steer the ship if the prize recruits get injured. That’s an area of contention where we must all wait and see.

On a positive note, I believe the injury toll at Souths will be cut in half this year with thanks to new physiotherapist Errol Alcott.

While Souths will inevitably see one of their big name recruits get injured, their recovery will be hastened by Alcott’s expertise.

Injuries limit a coaches preferred selection and with a few good players taking up a lot of investment from Souths, they need the best hands on board to keep these stars out on the field as long as they can this season.

Attitude:

The attitude of South Sydney remains the big X-factor.

How will they handle being behind by 10-points on the scoreboard after Canterbury runs in two tries inside the opening 5 minutes?

Will they fall to bits like they did against the Warriors when they got thrashed 66-0 (the club’s biggest loss ever? This is their Achilles’ heel no doubt about that.

What they must do in 2007?

South Sydney has to defeat the roosters in round 1. They have not won an opening round clash since defeating Canterbury 16-12 at the Sydney Football Stadium in 1999.

They must also learn to improve their concentration and defence in the final ten minutes of play. That’s where they lost too many winnable games in 2006.

Goals to aim for:

Forget about the Grand Final or making the top eight. If that happens, it happens. Concentrate on the small to medium goals.


Aim to win more of the games they lost between six and eight points last season.
Play a more attractive game of footy which will appeal to fans and other players considering joining the club in 2008.
Turn good players into top echelon stars of the future Brian Smith style.
Phase out the self-defeatist mindset that has hurt the club for too many years.
Reduce injuries and the player turn over in 2007.
These types of goals are realistic and can help the Bunnies achieve the win-loss ratio needed to be competitive and possibly make the finals.

Those goals don’t add as much pressure to the team and that can only be a good thing.

Coach: Jason Taylor
CEO: Shane Richardson
Finishing Forecast: 10th

Gains: Roy Asotasi (Bulldogs), David Kidwell (Storm), Nigel Vagana (Sharks), Dean Widders (Eels), Jeremy Smith (Eels), Daniel Irvine (Bulldogs) and Reece Simmonds (Dragons).

Losses: Adam MacDougall (Knights), Luke MacDougall (Dragons), Mark Minichello (Titans), Todd Polglase (Knights), Ben Walker (retired), Shane Walker (retired), Trent Young (QLD Cup), Balin Cupples (QLD Cup), Michael Greenfield (Sharks), Kane Cleal (Bulldogs), Rhys Hanbury (Tigers)

South Sydney Squad: Roy Asotasi, Beau Champion, Peter Cusack, David Fa’alogo, Joe Galuvao, Scott Geddes, Yileen Gordon, Shannon Hegarty, Daniel Irvine, David Kidwell, Jaiman Lowe, Manuse Manuokafoa, Shannon McPherson, Paul Meller, Nathan Merritt, Germaine Paulson, David Peachey, Ben Rogers, Jeremy Smith, Luke Stuart, John Sutton, Nigel Vagana, Stuart Webb, Dean Widders, Joe Williams. - Read More, Here