‘I made a mistake:’ Bennett reshuffles backline
After watching his decision to shift Adam Doueihi from fullback to wing backfire spectacularly in Friday night's 30-6 pounding at the hands of the Sydney Roosters, South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett won't be making the same mistake again.
On top of the return from suspension of inspirational skipper Sam Burgess, The Daily Telegraph can reveal Bennett is expected to make a major reshuffle to his backline when South Sydney take on Manly in this Friday night's sudden death semi-final at ANZ Stadium.
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With Dane Gagai set to return from a hamstring injury, James Roberts will revert to right centre with Doueihi most likely taking over at fullback and Alex Johnston back on the wing.
Johnston has made no secret of the fact fullback is his favoured position but right now his best fit for the team is on the wing given Braidon Burns' injury absence.
Youngster Corey Allan would be the player to drop out if Gagai is passed fit, as expected.
It definitely gives the Rabbitohs more punch coming out of yardage while the other major boost will be Burgess's return.
It was painfully obvious the Rabbitohs didn't have the same self belief they did in the Round 25 win over the Roosters without Burgess, and that combined with a mistake-riddled start just destroyed their confidence.
It wasn't until the second half that they finally lifted and started playing with a mentality befitting of finals football and the fact they finished the second half 6-4 ahead on the scoreboard shows they are not dead and buried as title contenders just yet.
Bennett said the second half response "was important".
"To have any chance next week we needed to redeem ourselves and get some confidence back in what we can do and what we need to do," Bennett explained.
"At halftime the game was lost and we just had to try and salvage what we could out of it and I think we did a pretty good job in the second half."
In both games against Manly this year only a field goal has separated the teams with the Sea Eagles winning the first clash and the Rabbitohs the second.
This is going to be another tight and tough contest and Souths just can't afford to start as slow as they have in the past two weeks.
Before the game plenty of good judges believed Bennett made the right call moving Johnston back to fullback because of his electric speed.
But it just didn't work having Doueihi playing in the unfamiliar wing position and Joey Manu and Brett Morris tore his combination with Roberts apart.
"He has played with such confidence in every position I have put (Doueihi) in this year when we have had all the injuries," Bennett said.
"He has played halfback, he has played five-eighth, he played fullback and handled them all really well.
"It was maybe a bridge a bit too far for him (playing on the wing) at this stage of his footy career. That was my decision so I take the responsibility for that."