League: Rabbitohs learn the art of fighting to the end

South Sydney players stop Warrior Feleti Mateo during their clash at Mt Smart Stadium last weekend. The Rabbitohs won 24-22.  Photo / Getty Images
South Sydney players stop Warrior Feleti Mateo during their clash at Mt Smart Stadium last weekend. The Rabbitohs won 24-22. Photo / Getty Images

South Sydney coach Michael Maguire believes the Rabbitohs' get-out-of-jail win over the Warriors was a huge step towards becoming a genuine NRL premiership contender.

Maguire's side face premiers Melbourne on Saturday in a battle between the only two unbeaten teams in the competition.

Souths' five successive victories comprise the club's best start to a season since 1971 when they won the last of their 20 premierships - but it so nearly ended in defeat in Auckland last Sunday as they held off a ferocious assault on their line late in the game to win 24-22 after rallying to reclaim the lead.

And Maguire said working out ways to win games when not at their best was something his side had learned to do.

"The boys are certainly fighting right towards the end of the game and that allows you to get something out of them," Maguire said.

"Teams are going to come back at you and it's about counteracting against it."

Maguire worked as Craig Bellamy's assistant at Melbourne before switching to Wigan in 2010, and the 39-year-old said he was not at all surprised that his former club were unbeaten this season.

The Storm's punishing schedule has included winning the World Club Challenge in England, then backing up from success over North Queensland in Townsville with victory over 2012 grand finalist Canterbury five days later.

"Melbourne have done it for a long time," he said.

"They have gone through these types of games for five or six years and always find a way to lift.

"They've had some changes, but the core of the team is still the same.

"They are the best side at working out a way to win in adversity."

The City Origin side will be announced on Sunday and in-form winger Nathan Merritt is certain to be named in coach Brad Fittler's side.

And Maguire said if his former Canberra teammate Laurie Daley came knocking on his door to inquire about his inclusion for NSW he would have no hesitation in backing the 29-year-old.

"If Laurie asks me if he should pick him I would say yes," Maguire said.

"The try he scored at the weekend against the Warriors was another reflection of how well he is going."

- AAP

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