Merritt bogeyman for Titans

BACK-rower Mark Minichiello fears South Sydney's electrifying fullback Nathan Merritt will rip Gold Coast to shreds if the Titans don't stiffen their defence this weekend.

With the Rabbitohs and Titans sitting on 18 competition points, just a win outside the top eight, the NRL clash at Telstra Stadium on Saturday shapes as critical for both teams' finals prospects.

Minichiello insists the injury-ravaged Titans aren't low on confidence following four consecutive defeats but, after conceding 92 points in their past two games, he admits their defence needs to be rock-solid against the Bunnies.

"I think our confidence is pretty good," the City Origin representative said yesterday.

"I don't think we're down in the dumps or sulking with our heads down.

"It'll just take one win to get a second wind. We're ready to go."

Merritt was superb at fullback in the Rabbitohs' 20-14 victory over North Queensland on Sunday when he made 14 runs for 121 metres, busted nine tackles and contributed to a line break.

"He's great in open space and being at fullback just gives him more room to move," former Rabbitoh Minichiello pointed out.

"If your kick-chase isn't up in one line he's going to cut you in two. He's the type of player who sniffs around the ruck for any half-breaks and he pounces on them.

"We've got to watch him this week. He's going to pop up everywhere around the ruck and our defence has to be solid."

The return of star forward Anthony Laffranchi from a serious knee injury is a major fillip for the Titans, who are missing a stack of key players.

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