AAP Rugby

Stuart praises Bennett ahead of NRL prelim

By AAP Newswire

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has praised South Sydney mentor Wayne Bennett ahead of their NRL preliminary final on Friday.

Stuart and Bennett's fierce rivalry goes back 30 years but the former had plenty of praise for the seven-time premiership coach on Monday.

The Rabbitohs had to dig deep against Manly last week to book their spot in the grand-final qualifier, which Stuart said was typical of a Bennett-coached team.

"They grinded away to a really tough win. They just keep finding ways to win, Souths. They're a quality team in that regard," Stuart said.

"They won games this year where they've just had to grind away and some experience there finds those special moments and special ways to win.

"(Bennett) has that knack in getting the best out of his team and he's obviously had a huge influence on the way they're playing this year."

Stuart said it was important for his men to embrace the pressure of finals football in the Raiders' second September campaign in seven years.

Canberra are favourites after having last weekend off but Stuart pointed to GWS upsetting Collingwood in the AFL to emphasis there would be no room for complacency.

"Go and ask Collingwood, so many people were thinking it was going to be a different two teams in the AFL grand final," Stuart said.

"You've got to understand the back slappers and all the positive comments go away but the pain of losing big games such as these never goes away.

"The result is obviously very important but it's also a time of the season that you want the players to enjoy this opportunity too and the only way to enjoy it is winning.

"You've got to enjoy the hype that runs with it (but) you just can't get involved in it."

Stuart didn't restrict his praise to Bennett and said Souths skipper Sam Burgess was "a big game player" but added he has plenty in his side too.

"(Burgess) is a massive influence to their performance, he's a huge contributor in the game, he's a big tough, aggressive style of player and that's what finals football is all about," Stuart said.

"He's a big-match player and will be definitely suited to this type of arena.

"We've been tested the last number of weeks. It's just another game you want players to step up and perform and this is where you find out who the big match players are."