Api KoroisauSOUTH Sydney coach Michael Maguire has backed young hooker Api Koroisau to fill the huge void left by Issac Luke’s suspension for Sunday’s NRL grand final.
Luke is serving a one-match ban for a lifting tackle on Sonny Bill Williams.
Fiji international Koroisau has scarcely played a full 80 minutes in his 13 NRL appearances, and although Maguire admitted he would have to tinker with his tactics to deal with the loss of Luke, he backed the Penrith-bound youngster to rise to the occasion.
‘‘Api has done a great job when he’s come into the team, and he’s been mentored by Issac, so we know we have a quality player coming into the side,’’ Maguire said.
‘‘We’ve got our plan and processes in place and he’ll slot in and away we’ll go.’’
Koroisau filled in for Luke earlier this season when he was sidelined with a shoulder injury, but he split the role with fellow youngster Cameron McInnes.
McInnes was recovering from an ankle injury towards the end of the season but impressed during his stint in the side earlier in the year and is seen as Luke’s long-term successor.
However, Maguire ruled out dropping a forward from his bench to accommodate two hookers.
‘‘We’ll see how the game goes, but what you see here today is what you’ll get,’’ Maguire said at the grand final lunch for the two teams in Darling Harbour.
The loss of Luke is a headache for Maguire, who was giving little away when asked about contingency plans to give Koroisau a spell on the sidelines for what is going to be a fearsome battle between two sets of powerful forwards.
With no other player with experience of playing hooker, Maguire may have to use five-eighth Luke Keary at dummy-half and move John Sutton to the halves.
Chris McQueen, a former winger, filled the role briefly during Koroisau’s debut in round four against Canberra and is also an option.
‘‘It depends on how the game pans out,’’ Maguire said. ‘‘We’ll obviously have a few things in place. We have options there, but we’ll see how we go.’’
Sunday’s game will be the last for Sam Burgess before he heads to play rugby in England, capping off a superb five years in the NRL.
Burgess, who finished third in Tuesday’s Dally M Medal voting behind joint winners Jarryd Hayne and Johnathan Thurston, said he had not thought about anything else apart from going out on a high note on Sunday.
‘‘The clock has been ticking down all year, I guess,’’ Burgess said. ‘‘But this week has been cracking and I’ve been able to spend some good, quality time with the team and I’ve really enjoyed it.
‘‘I am pretty relaxed. It’s been good around our place. We have a good mixture of young and old and I am somewhere in the middle.
‘‘We’ve got some great lads around, and it’s been very easy and brought us closer together,’’ he said.