South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett won't tell his players to keep aces up their sleeves despite a decade of history showing their blockbuster against Penrith will mean nothing come finals.
Friday night's clash is unique in that both sides know they are almost certain to face each other in three weeks time, as they are virtually locked in to second and third.
There is also no home final up for grabs, given the match will be played in the Queensland hub regardless of who finishes higher on the ladder.
An analysis of finals match-ups in the past 10 years also shows claims of being able to take a “psychological advantage” into the playoffs is a myth.
Eighteen times in the past decade have two teams met in the finals after facing off in the last month of the regular season.
On just four occasions has the victor in the regular season backed it up in the finals.
“Anytime you play certain teams you get an understanding of what you need to do to beat them,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.
“We'll both know a little bit more about each other after tomorrow night. Finals are a different kettle of fish as well.”
When asked if he would hold some plays in reserve for the finals rather than show them off in a meaningless match, Cleary laughed off the question with a “maybe”.
Bennett though won't even entertain the thought of holding back, after having to rebuild the Rabbitohs' season with 10 straight wins after their 50-12 loss to Penrith in May.
“There'll be nothing up our sleeve,” Bennett said.
“Ivan coaches Penrith the way he coaches them and I coach the way I coach.
“If that's what he wants to do or if that's what he's talking about doing well, that's fine. It's not what I'm doing.
“We've been battling to get ourselves back on track after they beat us so comprehensively last time.
“So we haven't talked too much about the trick shots or smart plays. We've just tried to get back to the basics and do them well. That's all we've been doing.”
Both sides are close to full strength for the clash, with Tevita Pangai back for the Panthers and Bennett confirming Alex Johnston, Dane Gagai and Campbell Graham will return.
Middle forwards Jai Arrow (concussion) and James Fisher-Harris (quarantine) are also both available but will be given an extra week off by the Rabbitohs and Panthers respectively.
The biggest change from the May meeting in Dubbo is due largely to the form of Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell, with Mitchell having missed four games before that clash and Walker only just returning to five-eighth.
“We understand the threat that's coming and that's just Cody, there's plenty of other good players in their team as well,” Cleary said.Internet Explorer Channel Network