After two impressive wins in succession the Sharks host the defending premiers South Sydney on Monday night in another stern test of their credentials.
Following a slow start to their 2015 season the Sharks surprised many with a victory over the Roosters, before backing up their first win of the year with a strong performance at home against the Knights.
This week the Rabbitohs come to town, with a Sharks team minus the Fifita brothers Andrew and David, needing another committed performance should they hope to chalk up a hat trick of wins.
Coach Shane Flanagan wasn’t downplaying the absence of his twin towers in the front row, however he was confident he had the depth in his squad to cover for their absence.
“He’s that big body,” Flanagan said of Andrew Fifita. “And against the Burgess boys and co it’s going to be a challenge and unfortunately we’ve lost his brother as well with a broken leg.
“To lose them both is tough against a real big Souths side but that gives the opportunity to someone else.”
Countering the loss of the Fifita brothers is the inclusion of Ben Barba, with the star utility coming off the bench and playing a pivotal role in the Sharks win over the Knights after spending the previous two weeks on the sideline due to suspension.
Rather than being downcast at not to be starting the game on Monday night, Barba looks forward to again taking advantage of the freedom the utility role will provide.
“It was a little bit different coming off the bench but I enjoyed it,” Barba said of his last outing against Newcastle. “It’s not new to me, I’ve done it before.”
“I’ll do whatever’s best for the team and if Shane sees that as me coming off the bench I’m happy to do that and I’ll just play my role.
“I enjoyed it last week and hopefully when I come on this week I can add some spark to our side.”
The Sharks side seemed almost confirmed as the experienced Sam Tagataese comes into the starting team for Andrew Fifita, however as far as his interchange was concerned Flanagan was yet to decide on the make-up of his bench, with today’s captains run set to determine his final 17.
Jayson Bukuya and Tinirau Arona are the players in contention to replace David Fifita.
Not quite as cut and dried was the Souths team, with John Sutton and Dylan Walker rumoured to be possible additions in what would be early returns from injury.
The two teams met just once last season, with Souths winning 18-0 in a match played at Remondis Stadium, while the last win for the Sharks over the Bunnies came in 2013 when the Cronulla side scored a hard-fought and exciting 14-12 triumph.
That match was also in a match played on a Monday night, with the Sharks winning against a Rabbitohs team boasting the likes of Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds, Isaac Luke and Sam Burgess, despite the fact Paul Gallen, Michael Gordon and Luke Lewis were unavailable.
Coincidently their other meeting in 2013 resulted in a 14-12 scoreline, with Souths coming out on top on that occasion.
In their last eight meetings Souths hold a 5-3 win advantage, while overall in matches dating back to 1967, the Sharks have won 42 of 82 games played, Souths 37, with three draws.
The match at Remondis Stadium is scheduled for a 7.00pm kick off on Monday night, with the NYC getting underway at 4.45pm. Gates open at 4.30pm.
Note: Sharks Corporate Partner Coates Hire is the match day sponsor for this weekend’s Tradies Round when the Sharks take on Souths.
Go to www.coateshire.com.au and click on the Sharks icon, or go to the link below for more information and to access the code to take advantage of a special Coates Hire 2 for 1 Tradies ticket offer for Monday night’s game.
CLICK HERE to find out more.