Sharks aiming to break into top eight

Cronulla are relishing the chance to break the the Cowboys’ 11-game NRL winning streak as they aim to jump into the top eight for the first time this season.

While most of the focus heading into Saturday’s clash in Townsville is on the Cowboys and their incredible run of victories, the Sharks have a chance to achieve a surprise feat of their own.

After three wins from their last four games, the Sharks are in ninth spot, only outside the top eight on for and against.

They were widely panned when they opened the year with four straight losses, but have dug themselves out of their hole at the round-16 mark.

While travelling to Townsville to face a Cowboys side unbeaten since late March might sound daunting, Ben Barba said the side was embracing the challenge.

“Some of the boys were saying they were happy (the Cowboys) won on the weekend,” Barba said.

“It makes for a good contest up there and hopefully we can be ready for them on the weekend and really give them a run for their money.”

The Sharks’ cause was helped on Tuesday when Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston was ruled out of the clash in a bid to give his body a rest during the draining representative period.

On the flip side, the Sharks are a chance to welcome back their own inspirational skipper with Paul Gallen, included as 18th man as he recovers from a rib injury.

Cowboys coach Paul Green identified Barba as the Sharks’ danger man after the former Dally M medal winner sparked a comeback win against Newcastle last weekend.

Coming off the bench, Barba hinted he was returning to form, playing an important hand in one try and scoring another as Cronulla overran the Knights.

“Games against the Sharks tend to become a pretty gritty affair,” Green said.

“Ben Barba added a bit of x-factor last week off the bench.

“He’s a guy that we’ll certainly have to be on our toes for.”

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