Issac Luke regains his coveted South Sydney No 9 jersey for the first time since he needed shoulder surgery in March when the Rabbitohs host the Warriors in Perth on Saturday night.
The Kiwis hooker was a late alteration to South Sydney's starting line-up against St George Illawarra last night at No 24, and after successfully logging 50 minutes of game time over two stints he will run on to NIB Stadium for the Rabbitohs' traditional NRL road trip to Western Australia.
Luke was injured against the Wests Tigers in round three, a setback that ruled him out of last month's Anzac test, and returned to action against the Dragons earlier than anticipated.
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire was delighted with Luke's performance and had no hesitation in starting the live wire dummy half runner against the Warriors.
"It's impressive, the way he's come back. He probably came back two of three weeks earlier than he was meant to. That just goes to show his professionalism off the field during that period," he said.
Luke's recovery means Apisai Koroisau reverts to the bench, a scenario that no doubt influenced the 21-year-old Fijian international's decision to sign a two-year deal with the Penrith Panthers.
Maguire had made one change to the line-up that exacerbated the Dragons' woes with a 29-10 victory at ANZ Stadium: wing Alex Johnston returns after he was ruled out at late notice with a quadriceps injury.
Johnston replaces veteran Nathan Merritt and re-establishes a right edge attack with Dylan Walker who is a possible contender to replace injured centre Josh Morris when New South Wales take on Queensland in Origin II in Sydney on June 18.
A fourth win in five games lifted the Rabbitohs to fourth but Maguire was wary of the challenge posed by a Warriors team that are only a win outside the top eight.
Although the Dragons never posed a serious threat, Maguire said an errors that contributed to a poor 66 per cent completion rate had to be addressed.
"We put a lot of pressure on ourselves in that second half just through errors. We have to be more thorough in that area of the game," he said.
Encouragingly South Sydney boast the third stingiest defence in the competition, a drastic improvement after they dropped three of their first four matches.
"The way we've defended is the pleasing part. The boys, from that start of the season, really put their heads down and put themselves into a reasonable position at the moment," he said.
The Rabbitohs fly to Perth on Thursday, one day after the 12th-placed Warriors establish their base.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: Greg Inglis, Alex Johnston, Dylan Walker, Kirisome Auva'a, Joel Reddy, John Sutton (captain), Adam Reynolds, George Burgess, Issac Luke, David Tyrrell, Kyle Turner, Ben Te'o, Sam Burgess. Interchange: Apisai Koroisau, Jason Clark, Chris McQueen, Tom Burgess.
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