Souths looking to capitalise on strong start to 2016
By Aaron Taylor
Southern Districts are one of just two undefeated teams remaining in the Intrust Shute Shield and sit second after three rounds, just one bonus point behind competition leaders Randwick.
Souths opened their season with strong wins over Manly and West Harbour, before coming from behind to beat Warringah 24-23 at Rat Park last Saturday night.
Despite the strong start, Souths coach Matt Barr isn’t getting too far ahead himself.
“We’ve learned that there’s potential within the group, there’s makings of a very good side, but we’ve still got a long way to go. It’s very early in the season and we just need to keep working hard and improving,” Barr told Rugby News.
“For example, on the weekend we should have been in a position where we could close out the game, we had field position and our execution let us down and allowed the opposition back into the contest.”
After losing Jed Holloway, Ben Volavola, Alex Gibbon, Paul Asquith and Afa Pakalani at the end of last season, many critics expected Souths to struggle in 2016, however last year’s finalists recruited strongly and now appear to be one of the teams to beat this season.
Barr credited the return of experienced flanker Sean Doyle and the leadership of new captain Marcus Carbone for much of the early season success.
“Marcus is doing great job. He has actually done the job for us in the past when Jed’s been unavailable from being involved in the Waratahs or through injury… So Marcus is familiar to the role but obviously has been stepping up to the role in a more full-time capacity. He’s obviously had some of that experience and learned a lot I suppose from Jed as well,” commented Barr.
The unbeaten Rebels host Eastern Suburbs this Saturday, who picked up their first victory of the season against Norths last weekend.
“We’re certainly not underestimating and we’re certainly very wary of Easts. We’re expecting a very hard game down at Forshaw on Saturday,” said Barr.
“The aim was to get through the first month and we set ourselves the goal of trying to win those first four weeks.”
Regardless of this weekend’s result, Barr said his sides toughest challenges still lay ahead and admitted last year’s premiers Eastwood were still the team to beat this year.
“Eastwood are the team. They certainly look as though they’re going to be very strong but we’re looking at some of the other teams as well. Obviously there have been a few teams on the improve but certainly Eastwood at this stage, they’re the ones that are sort of sending a strong message with their results with the start to the season,” said Barr.
The Rebels play Eastwood in round six and will be looking to consolidate their spot at the top end of the Shute Shield ladder, as the club continues to search for an illusive premiership.
“We just need to continue improving on all aspects of our game and certainly if we can do that, and we can be consistent- that’s probably our biggest focus. We want to be putting ourselves into a strong position on the ladder at the end of the year and if we can do that then hopefully we will be contesting hard for the Shute Shield.”