With his side failing to find momentum this NRL season, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is confident playmakers Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace can be the catalysts to a late NRL season revival.
The Panthers have been affected by a heavy injury toll to key players this year with Soward and Wallace both spending extended stints on the sideline.
With fullback Matt Moylan (ankle) and James Segeyaro (knee) out injured, the Panthers halves showed promising signs in their 35-12 win over the Wests Tigers last week.
Penrith’s big challenge this year has been building combinations in their spine. Their halves have played just four games together and the Tigers clash marked just their first back-to-back appearances beside each other this season.
Cleary said he was pleased with the way Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, filling in at No.1 for Moylan, and back-up hooker Apisai Koroisau had grown into their roles.
And he predicted they would only improve with time on the park with Soward and Wallace.
“You can only do so much one week at a time so it’s those combinations that become second nature, that’s the real key,” Cleary said.
“And we haven’t had that throughout the year.
“Jamie and Wal have played a couple of games together now so they’re starting to fall back into their combinations.
“And Dallin’s picking up their traits … we’re starting to get used to Api as well.
“Another game of those guys playing together hopefully in the big moments they won’t have to check each other seeing what they’re gonna do.”
Friday night’s game against South Sydney at Pepper Stadium will be Koroisau’s first game against his former club, who he won a grand final with last year filling in for Issac Luke.
“Everyone likes to play against their old side,” Cleary said.
“He’s enjoying it and he played well for us last week.”
Influential captain Greg Inglis will be absent for the Rabbitohs on State of Origin duty.
Cleary said while the premiers would miss his presence, their forward pack remained their driving force and stopping the Rabbitohs big men was they key for his side.