The Best of the Day preview takes the first hit-up with NRL tips for the opening match of 2019 finals series – a Roosters-Rabbitohs blockbuster. 

NRL Tips – Sydney Roosters V South Sydney Rabbitohs

19:50 (AEST) @ Sydney Cricket Ground

History: Played 220: Rabbitohs 114 V Roosters 101 (5 Draws)

Last meeting: Round 25, 2019: Rabbitohs 16 d Roosters 10 at ANZ Stadium

Final thoughts: The NRL’s fiercest rivals do battle for the second time in eight days – but the stakes are far higher this time around.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs overcame an eight-point halftime deficit to beat Sydney Roosters 16-10 last Thursday. Two tries in three minutes from Campbell Graham and Cody Walker effectively decided the match – and underlined Souths’ game-breaking threat.

But the Roosters, with second spot already under lock and key, were under-strength and will not be unduly concerned by the result. They welcome Luke Keary, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Brett Morris and Mitch Aubusson back this week.

The big line-up news is, of course, the absence of Rabbitohs talisman Sam Burgess and the Jared Waerea-Hargreaves’ escape at the judiciary. Thomas Burgess is back in Souths’ 17, but big bro is a massive out.

After the Roosters won five of the previous six derbies, the Rabbitohs prevailed in both matches this season. The last six (and 10 of the last 13) clashes were decided by 1-12 margins.

The finals ledger between the clubs sees Souths ahead 6-5. They have only met twice in the playoffs since 1938, however, with Souths prevailing 32-22 in the 2014 preliminary final and the Roosters grafting out a 12-4 victory in the corresponding match last year.

Neither team has scored more than 26 points in their last eight encounters and defence will again by the key here.

The Rabbitohs will rely on Damien Cook and Walker’s ability to bust the game open. But they also need to match the Roosters’ relentless pack – and the Bunnies look a little light without Sam Burgess.

Souths’ back-five have punched above their weight throughout 2019. But the Tricolours have a distinct advantage there, too, particularly in the shape of superstars James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell.

Expect the usual fireworks and drama, but the Roosters should ensure this NRL Qualifying Final is one Russell Crowe will want to leave out of the Book of Feuds.

Tip: Margin – Roosters 11-20 @ $3.75