Back-to-back defensive slumps have Cronulla desperate for answers as they try to keep their chances of a top-two NRL finish alive against South Sydney.
The Sharks go into Monday night’s clash with the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium motivated by their desire to bounce back after a three-game winless run.
However, as strong as their intent is to make a statement three weeks out from the finals, front of mind for coach Shane Flanagan is addressing their defensive frailties that have been exposed in the past two weeks.
Their 30-14 loss to Canberra and 32-18 defeat at the hands of St George Illawarra are the two worst defensive performances the side has put in this season and the only times the team has conceded more than 30 points in a game.
“You need to defend well to play well and that’s where we start tomorrow night,” Flanagan said.
“You can’t leak 30 points – if you do that against good sides you’re not going to get there and if you do it in a semi-final you’re going to get bailed out the other end.”
It represents a lapse for Flanagan’s side who have been the third best defensive team this year and conceded an average 16.9 points per game.
After the Canberra’s win over Parramatta on Sunday, the Sharks hold a two-point advantage over the Raiders and must keeping winning to be assured of second spot and a home game in the first week of the semi-finals.
“I’d like to think we can win three of them before the finals,” Flanagan said.
“And that’s about confidence going into the semi-finals, playing well, having faith in the bloke next to you.
“We need to get back to where we were a couple of weeks ago.”
Flanagan said skipper Paul Gallen was in doubt for Monday’s game at ANZ Stadium because of a calf strain but his fellow veteran back-rower Luke Lewis was set to play despite missing training during the week because of a virus.
Souths halfback Adam Reynolds is struggling to overcome a hamstring injury.
STATS THAT MATTER
* South Sydney have won just two of 11 home matches this season, including just two of eight at ANZ Stadium.
* Cronulla have made the second most tackle busts (28.2 per game) and second most offloads (12 per game) in 2016.
* Adam Reynolds has scored 835 points and needs two more to become South Sydney’s third all-time leading points scorer.
Source: Fox Sports Stats