The South Sydney Rabbitohs will play their first game in New South Wales since July 8 next weekend, but the jury is out on whether their horror road trip earns a pass or a failure.

With their home ground at Homebush out of commission for the Women's FIFA World Cup, and the back-up option at Moore Park also out of action, it left the Rabbitohs needing to hit the road.

Since they played - and lost to - the Canterbury Bulldogs on July 8 at Homebush, the Rabbitohs have taken home games to the Sunshine Coast, Perth and Cairns, as well as playing the Wests Tigers in Tamworth.

They don't get to return home just yet either, with next week's game to see them play the firing Newcastle Knights in the Hunter.

That game will be critical on the run to the top eight, with both the Rabbitohs and Knights currently locked in the arm-wrestle for spots at the bottom of the finals pecking order.

The Rabbitohs then have a bye, before taking on the Sydney Roosters in the final round - the Roosters, who have been written off by the majority, are still alive after Saturday night's win over the Dolphins, but will likely need wins over the Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers in the next fortnight if that game is to have any bearing on their own finals plight.

South Sydney, even with a bye, likely needs to win both of their remaining games to guarantee a finals spot - a single win could leave them needing other results to go their way, although that looks a little more likely now with Mitchell Moses fracturing his cheekbone. With the star half's season over, Parramatta's run to the finals looks all but doomed to fail.

For the Rabbitohs to make the finals is one thing, but to be contenders, the club is going to need to see a dramatic turnaround over the coming fortnight.

The month out of New South Wales was always going to be a difficult part of the season for Jason Demetriou's side, but frankly, the run of teams they have played should have seen better results than it has, regardless of all the travel.

And certainly, if this team is going to challenge for the premiership, then it needed to.

But ultimately, South Sydney has been below their best, and that, even with a win over the St George Illawarra Dragons on Saturday in Cairns, was evident.

The Rabbitohs looked clunky in beating the Dragons. They got away with it in the end, but it didn't scream a team who are about to go on a charge through the month of September.

Lachlan Ilias has struggled to become the consistent number seven he needs to be, despite the praise dumped on him by coach Demtriou during the week.

NRL Rd 11 - Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 13: Lachlan Ilias of the Rabbitohs passes the ball during the round 11 NRL match between South Sydney Rabbitohs and Wests Tigers at Accor Stadium on May 13, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

It's to the point where some South Sydney fans are asking whether one of Jack Wighton or Cody Walker can't play in the seven next year.

If Ilias can't direct his team to a big win over the Dragons, where is it that the Rabbitohs really sit on the number seven? The Dragons, at this time of year, for a premiership hopeful, should be cannon fodder.

The club's earlier games on this road trip didn't scream confidence either.

The loss to the Sharks was a bad nightmare for the Rabbitohs, who didn't get into the game at all early on. Use the excuse of flights all you want, but ultimately, an out-of-form Cronulla side fighting for their own finals life made the same flight.

At least Demetriou didn't want to make excuses after that game, even with Jai Arrow's back injury and Thomas Burgess' sin binning - he said the Bunnies had flown across the country on Monday.

Prior to that, the Rabbitohs had put together another unconvincing performance to beat the Tigers in Tamworth, and before that, it was a very average loss to the Broncos on the Sunshine Coast.

The same factors which have hampered the Rabbitohs for years have flared during this run of form - it's a team who at times simply don't look like they want to get into the grind and do the hard yards.

Instead, the mentality seems to be "try for try", only the Rabbitohs' attack isn't quite as good as it was while it was being directed by Adam Reynolds.

The Rabbitohs' ball control has also been poor at times. Demetriou has hinted at it more than once, but last week against the Sharks, the men from Redfern only completed 66 per cent of sets.

Against the Dragons, in what was just a poor game of rugby league, they only completed 63 per cent. That isn't a winning number, although the Rabbitohs found a way to make it so.

There are, of course, two ways to look at it - either credit for getting the win when not playing well, or the more conventional approach of things needing to improve.

Ultimately, you could take a completion rate like that once, but not consistently, and the Rabbitohs simply have a problem with ball handling.

As Cameron Murray pointed out last night in the post-game press conference, Tevita Tatola and Thomas Burgess are currently out, but without a confirmed timeline for Tatola or the prospect of Burgess playing again in the regular season, South Sydney is running out of time to get it right.

The road trip is over though, and the Rabbitohs, while needing to play in Newcastle next week, must spend the best part of this week getting things right, or they can kiss those top eight hopes goodbye.

The Knights aren't a knock-over as they once were, and the Roosters will be anything but in Round 27.

This was a road trip that had the ability to make or break South Sydney's season - it's left the jury out, but they are rapidly approaching a verdict, and it won't be positive if a tick in the win column isn't returned next week.