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Luke, Peats to provide Rabbitohs thrust
By James MacSmith
17:01 AEST Fri Feb 1 2013

South Sydney coach Michael Maguire is banking on the NRL's most explosive hooking combination to finally break the club's 42-year premiership drought.

Last year, Issac Luke cemented his status as one of the game's premier No.9s with some stunning big-game performances for the Rabbitohs.

And while Maguire has backed the New Zealand international to continue that stellar form this season, he has also nominated his back-up Nathan Peats as one of the players to watch in 2013.

Luke responded to his late-season dumping from the Rabbitohs side, due to off-field disciplinary issues, by producing career-best form as Souths surged to within one game of the grand final.

Peats provided more than able support and even started a few games ahead of Luke.

It was a combination that pushed Souths to within one win of their first grand final since 1971 and one that is set to spark the Rabbitohs again this season.

"Issac grew and evolved as a player last year and we were all happy to see that," Maguire told AAP.

"He showed a lot of improvement in his game and was able to take advantage of a lot of good work by the players around him. He was one player who grew into the season and into what we expected as the season went on.

"And (this pre-season) I have really enjoyed watching Nathan Peats develop. He has been outstanding in training and I expect him to continue that through the trials and into the season. I like the style he plays with, he is a very hard worker and a real student of the game. It will be exciting to see what he can do."

Maguire said the club's depth in the hooking department was an indication of the keen competition across the team for first grade spots.

"There is some depth there and that is what every coach wants to see and I would like to think that is the case across the board," Maguire said.

"You look at Luke Burgess' injury - it is so disappointing for him, he has been working so hard - but it opens things up for someone else. Front row is one of the most competitive positions in the team and it gives someone else the chance to be part of the team."

Burgess is sidelined for six months with a shoulder injury. Co-captain Matt King (broken arm) is the Rabbitohs' other main injury worry and Maguire said he was hopeful the former Kangaroos centre would be fit for the round-one clash with arch-rivals Sydney Roosters on March 7.

"Matt has had a few problems because the break got infected," Maguire said.

"It is a bit of a setback but we will know more in a few weeks, whether the break has healed well or not and whether he will be fit for round one."