It may not have been expected, but the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Manly Sea Eagles will come together to put it all on the line for a spot in the grand final in the NRL's second preliminary final.

If this one doesn't increase the appetite for attacking, free-flowing rugby league, then there isn't much that will.

Two of the best attacking teams in the competition, with players on both sides who have used this season to break records of all sorts when it comes to attack.

Most points in a season? Reuben Garrick says check.

Most try assists in a season? Cody Walker says he'll have that record, thanks very much.

Most prolific number of try involvements in a season? Who else but Tom Trbojevic.

MUDGEE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: Tom Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles scores a try during the round six NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Gold Coast Titans at Glen Willow Sporting Complex, on April 17, 2021, in Mudgee, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

This clash will have three of the five contenders for the Dally M Medal in Walker, Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans, and a glut of other attacking weapons.

Follow it live! South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Manly Sea Eagles match centre

The Sea Eagles are coming off a rollercoaster, having lost to the Storm in a big way during the qualifying final, before bouncing back with a big win of their own over the Sydney Roosters in last week's sudden-death semi-final.

Meanwhile, the Rabbitohs proved they can defend with a gutsy victory over the Penrith Panthers in their own qualifying final, ruining the majority of pundit's grand final tips, and earning themselves a week off in the process.

Team news

After a back and forth between the media and Manly coach Des Hasler, Brad Parker has been ruled out of the preliminary final.

The Manly centre, ever solid on both ends of the park, was cut from the Sea Eagles' squad at the 24-hour mark, with Moses Suli the man to take his place.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 28: Brad Parker of the Sea Eagles runs with the ball during the round 7 NRL match between the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and the Canberra Raiders at Lottoland on April 28, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Sean Keppie also had an injury cloud hovering over him, however at this point is listed to take his place for the men from the Northern Beaches. If Keppie is ruled out, then Toafofoa Sipley could take his place on the bench.

Keppie also started last week. Martin Taupau has been named to retake his spot in the starting team, but don't be shocked if Hasler pulls a last-minute swap.

The Rabbitohs, on the other hand, are virtually at full strength, minus suspended fullback Latrell Mitchell, and have no reported concerns from the captain's run on Thursday after their week off.

South Sydney Rabbitohs
1. Blake Taaffe 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dane Gagai 4. Campbell Graham 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Mark Nicholls 9. Damien Cook 10. Tevita Tatola 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jaydn Su'A 13. Cameron Murray
Interchange: 14. Benji Marshall 15. Jacob Host 16. Thomas Burgess 17. Jai Arrow 18. Taane Milne 19. Patrick Mago

Manly Sea Eagles
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jason Saab 19. Moses Suli 4. Morgan Harper 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11. Haumole Olakau'atu 12. Josh Schuster 13. Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: 14. Dylan Walker 15. Karl Lawton 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Toafofoa Sipley 21. Tevita Funa

The key battles

Shutting down Cody Walker and the Rabbitohs' left edge
It's no small surprise that the South Sydney left edge is one of the most dangerous attacking weapons in the competition.

While Cody Walker has come away with a monstrous, record-breaking number of try assists throughout the season, he has only been part of the reason South Sydney's left edge has been so phenomenal.

CODY WALKER
Five-eighth
Rabbitohs
2021 SEASON AVG
1.4
Try Assists
0.6
Tries
117.7
Kick Metres

From prolific try-scorer Alex Johnston's finishing ability, to the way Damien Cook gets the team rolling out of dummy half, or Cameron Murray's work in getting quick play the balls (more on this in a moment), it's a dominance unlike what has been seen before.

Simply put, if right centre Morgan Harper and his outside man Jason Saab can't hold their nerve defensively, the Sea Eagles can virtually forget about going with the Rabbitohs.

The other key factor in stopping the Rabbitohs left edge is to starve them of possession. Tiring out the agile forwards, slowing the play the ball and running an excellent kicking game - led by Daly Cherry-Evans - will be critical.

Tom Trbojevic and Blake Taafe
The key answer to that left edge, attacking wise, is the Tom Trbojevic show.

Undoubtedly, he needs other stars, Cherry-Evans, Kieran Foran, brother Jake and Lachlan Croker to all play superbly around him, but if Tom Trbojevic fires, few teams - Melbourne aside - have been able to put a stop to Manly's attacking prowess.

TOM TRBOJEVIC
Fullback
Sea Eagles
2021 SEASON AVG
1.5
Tries
1.4
Try Assists
6.5
Tackle Breaks

While Trbojevic did have the slow game in Manly's losing qualifying final effort, he has been excellent everywhere else, averaging more than three try involvements per game.

To put it in perspective, Trbojevic is odds-on favourite to win the Dally M Medal, despite playing just 15 games throughout the course of the regular season.

He has been the best player by the length of the straight, and Blake Taafe is going to have a mighty task on his hands to contain him. It's more than just Taafe of course, but as fullback, he needs to read the play before it happens, direct his teammates and, no matter how rookie, find a way to guide his team through difficult periods where Trbojevic simply has the tendency to pop up everywhere.

Cameron Murray's quick play the balls and Manly's brute strength
This is a real battle of two different forward packs.

It's not to say South Sydney don't possess the old-style, hard-nosed, aggressive forward. They do. Players like Mark Nicholls and even Keaon Kolomatangi know how to bend the line as much as anyone in the competition.

But they don't have the X-Factor style player that is Martin Taupau. It may be a generally slower style of play through the middle third, but the way he is able to generate offloads alongside others like Haumole Olokau'atu, Jake Trbojevic and Taniela Paseka is outstanding.

They will be up against the unbelievable speed and agility of Cameron Murray though. He is a must-stop player for Manly, with South Sydney's entire attack at times relying on his abilities.

CAMERON MURRAY
Lock
Rabbitohs
2021 SEASON AVG
1.1
Offloads
0.2
Tries
0
Try Assists

It's going to be an intriguing battle in the middle third, and one which could decide the game.

The stats you need to know

One of the key factors in this game is the coaching. Neither of these coaches loses very often at this stage of the season.

Des Hasler has never lost a preliminary final in plenty of attempts, while Wayne Bennett has never lost one at Suncorp Stadium, a venue where he has had plenty of success.

That all said, one of the coaches' runs is about to come to an end.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 30: Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett talks to media during a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL training session at Redfern Oval on May 30, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

While the Sea Eagles do hold an edge in the overall record between the two teams, the Rabbitohs have been by far the superior team when it comes to finals action, winning nine of the 13 matches between the sides.

There is nothing in the overall season stats between the two sides, with just seven points separating their total points for in what should be a shootout. In saying that, the Rabbitohs have conceded 50 twice, with no team ever winning the competition after letting in 50 during the season.

Manly though, have made more handling errors than any side this season, which is further pressurised by the fact South Sydney engage the line more than any other team, which is likely to only heap pressure on the Manly defence.

Where it'll be won

As I've hinted at, this game is going to be a shootout. There is no two ways around that. Lots of points, and it could well then come down to which defence can stand up for longer periods of time.

That said, very few defences have been able to slow down Tom Trbojevic or South Sydney's dangerous left edge.

So, while defence is going to play a part, it's going to come down to limiting errors and staying in possession with a territorial advantage.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 21: Martin Taupau of the Sea Eagles warms up prior to the round 18 NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Parramatta Eels at Lottoland on July 21, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Under the new rules, momentum is an incredibly hard thing to flip. That's going to give a team an advantage early, and if they can capitalise, it could be curtains.

Prediction

This is a tough match to tip, there is no doubt about that.

Still, Manly came into the finals as the side most likely to challenge the Storm. They were blown out of the water in the qualifying final, but recovered last week and as a result bring immediate momentum into this game.

South Sydney's defence has been flaky for much of the year, and that isn't a recipe to slow down Tom Trbojevic.

As long as Manly can cut out their errors, they will win an absolute belter.

Sea Eagles by 4.

What else you need to know

Kick-off: 7:50pm (AEST)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Broadcast: Live, Channel 9, Fox Sports (Fox League 502), 9Now, Kayo Sports, Foxtel App
Overall record: Played 146, Sea Eagles 77, Rabbitohs 69, drawn 0
Record in finals: Played 13, Rabbitohs 9, Sea Eagles 4
Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein, Touch judges: Jon Stone and Phil Henderson, Bunker official: Grant Atkins