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Warriors buckle down for finals push

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/08/2016
Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors looks dejected following the round eight NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the New Zealand Warriors at AAMI Park on April 25, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia © Graham Denholm/Getty Images Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors looks dejected following the round eight NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the New Zealand Warriors at AAMI Park on April 25, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia

Warriors veteran Manu Vatuvei says his side has overcome its early-season skittishness to hit its straps at just the right time.

Vatuvei told reporters on Wednesday that the atmosphere around the eighth-placed club with four games remaining was unlike any in recent years.

That confidence would help cement the side in the top eight, he said.

The 30-year-old is one of just five remaining Warriors to have taken part in the club's 2011 NRL grand final defeat, their most recent taste of finals footy.

"The buzz around the club and the boys is really positive," Vatuvei said.

"Even (when) things don't go our way, we've just got to keep that energy up."

The Warriors showed increased defensive grit in their 24-14 win over Gold Coast last week, holding out the Jarryd Hayne-inspired Titans on numerous occasions.

The side missed only 16 tackles in the away victory, their sixth in nine games.

Five-eighth Thomas Leuluai put the Warriors' increased steel down to a settled squad and improved fluency, with coach Andrew McFadden naming an unchanged line-up for Saturday's match against the Rabbitohs.

Jazz Tevaga retains his role at hooker in the absence of the crocked Issac Luke, who is expected to return in three weeks.

"Everyone's understanding their roles a bit better," Leuluai said.

"Consistency with line-ups and combinations on the edge is what's helping.

"There's periods of the game where it's tough and we're hanging in there and then maybe coming over the top of teams, which we probably haven't been known for."

However Leuluai, who will return to the Super League at the end of the season, remained unsatisfied with his side's attacking performance.

Offensive execution needed to improve if the Warriors were to make a real fist of their final four games.

"Nothing is secure," the 31-year-old Leuluai said.

"We're eighth and you can jump that, or go up or drop right out if things slip."

South Sydney come into the match in lowly 14th but can be encouraged by last week's golden-point loss to the Storm.

Both Vatuvei and Leuluai were surprised by how the Rabbitohs' season has panned out, with the side well out of the finals hunt.

"They're a team that should've been up there in the top eight," Vatuvei said.

"With the season they've had, I'm sure they want to come here and play their best, with some of their best players back like (Greg) Inglis."

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