Souths face tough run in NRL title defence

South Sydney’s premiership defence hinges on their ability to make a statement against the NRL’s heavyweights over the next month according to hooker Issac Luke.

Finals-intensity football has come a month early for the Rabbitohs as they brace themselves for a litmus test against four top-eight teams over the last month of the regular season.

After having their momentum halted in a 28-8 upset loss to Manly on Friday, the Bunnies face four high-stakes games in the lead-up to the finals – including matches against all three of their fellow top-four teams.

Beginning with a tough road trip to Townsville to tackle the second-placed North Queensland, they host Canterbury and leaders Brisbane before finishing off with a derby against arch-rivals Sydney Roosters.

While they are all but assured of playing finals football, their hopes of a top-four finish – and two bites at the cherry – hang by a thread, while a loss to the Cowboys would see them drop to fifth.

“Every week we need to make a statement,” Luke said ahead of Thursday night’s blockbuster in Townsville.

“Both (the Rabbitohs and Cowboys) are coming off a loss so we’ll be doing our best to get a massive win.

“Every loss is bad and you want to try to get as many wins as you can, it’s pretty crucial at this time of year.

“We’re certainly paying attention to what we can work on.”

But rather than shy away from the challenge, Luke said they were embracing their tough run home and will be using it to make a point to the rest of the competition.

“Manly was tough and now we’ve got Cowboys and Bulldogs after that,” Luke said.

“Our run home is tough but it’s probably the best test that we can get.”

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