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Bunnies pass titanic test of character

So close ... Nathan Merritt of the Rabbitohs crosses the line for what proved to be a disallowed try against the Titans, as South Sydney maintained their strong form.

So close ... Nathan Merritt of the Rabbitohs crosses the line for what proved to be a disallowed try against the Titans, as South Sydney maintained their strong form. Photo: Getty Images

I was very keen to see how South Sydney handled this difficult assignment. It was never going to be an easy game for them.

I'm not just talking about winning the match either. I fully expected them to account for the Titans on the scoreboard.

However, winning doesn't always tell the complete story.

I was more interested in the key indicators of their individual and collective states of mind. How they played. Their demeanour. Their body language. Their togetherness. Their spirit of competitiveness. Their commitment to excellence.

You see, not only were these Rabbitohs to be confronted with in-form and desperate opponents in the Titans, who were fighting for their own place in the finals. Not only were they again playing without two of their star playmakers in Greg Inglis and Issac Luke.

But this South Sydney team could also easily have fallen to other significant distractions.

I travelled to the Gold Coast yesterday looking for any signs of an attitude-shift that could adversely affect the individual player or performance of the team.

Sitting in second place on the premiership ladder as they entered August football, many of these Bunnies will be experiencing rarefied air for the first time. The oxygen gets pretty thin at these lofty heights and you need to be well-conditioned to the elements, aware of the perils.

Danger lines in the media such as ''the best Souths team in 50 years'', ''career-best form'', ''the premiership challenge the fans have been waiting for''. Reading your own press clippings can be a real trap for young players.

Would the new-found adoration from the media start to erode their hunger and attention to detail on game days? Hmmm?

Or would they ignore the hype, stay tight as a unit and remain humble? Would the knowledge they are now confirmed as definite semi-finalists for 2012 maybe lead to thoughts of mission accomplished?

After all, if someone told them back in February they would be in finals football, I'm sure many of them would've taken that as being a successful season. Or would we see evidence they are determined to get better at what they do and not waste this tremendous opportunity to reach for higher honours?

Would their recent run of victories and sense of achievement lead to them swapping their systems and structures for some self-awarded licence to start playing to the crowd with an ad lib and carefree style of football designed to entertain and showcase individual talents?

Or would they truly understand the disciplines that had got them to this position and build on these foundations as the cornerstones of their success?

Life is about choices. You make a mistake once, it's a mistake. You make the same mistake again, that's a choice. Yesterday, the South Sydney players, the South Sydney team, made great choices.

They chose to be tough in the face of challenge, resilient under fire, courageous under pressure, disciplined under fatigue. They overcame a spirited opponent, which totally dominated them with regards to possession and field position.

Souths made a total of 277 tackles to the Gold Coast's 235. The home side had 36 sets of six during the contest compared with Souths Sydney's 27.

The Gold Coast also enjoyed a mountain of this possession inside the Souths' 20-metre zone. The Rabbitohs played the ball inside the Titans' 20-metre zone on only three occasions during the whole game.

The Rabbitoh defence was outstanding. They turned the Titans away time and time again with magnificent efforts.

A lot of it was based on knowledge and technique, too.

They read the Gold Coast attacking raids perfectly and had them covered at every point across the field. I reckon the Titans would've beaten a lot of teams yesterday.

They never really looked like beating the Rabbitohs.

South Sydney never panicked at any stage. When they did get possession they perfunctorily went about their business with every player contributing to the hard work.

What I really liked was their ability to execute scoring plays when they were on offer. They didn't waste a chance.

This is a serious football team with an undeniable shot at the title.

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Round 1
Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
ENG 32 vs SAM 26 Stats
AUS 12 vs NEWZ 30 Stats
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Round 2
Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEWZ 14 vs SAM 12 Report Stats
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
AUS 16 vs ENG 12 Report Stats
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Round 3
Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEWZ 16 vs ENG 14 Report Stats
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
AUS 44 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
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Final
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEWZ 22 vs AUS 18 Report Stats
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Four Nations 2014
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 3 3 0 0 22 6
Australia 3 2 1 0 12 4
England 3 1 2 0 0 2
Samoa 3 0 3 0 -34 0
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