Cronulla will zero in on James Tedesco in Saturday’s round 24 NRL clash with Wests Tigers in a bid to keep their chances of a top four finish intact.
The Sharks’ hopes of a finals double chance were dealt a significant blow in Monday’s heavy loss to Melbourne.
But they can still sneak into the top four if they win their three remaining games of the regular season and other results go their way.
The Tigers sit equal last on the NRL ladder and are coming off a last-start loss to Newcastle.
The joint venture has been one of the season’s biggest disappointments, but fullback Tedesco has been one of the stars of 2015, illustrated by his status as the game’s leading tackle breaker.
Tedesco was instrumental in the Tigers’ upset win over Melbourne three weeks ago, and Sharks coach Shane Flanagan believes the City representative will be key again at Remondis Stadium.
“When he is bringing the ball back he is creating so many opportunities for that team, he gets their sets started so well,” Flanagan told reporters on Friday.
“We need to be really good on him, he has had a sensational year.
“We have had a real good look at him this week. (But) it is okay to have a look at him but then you have to go out there and handle it.”
Both Robbie Farah (cheek) and Aaron Woods (knee) have been cleared of injury to take their place in the Tigers’ side. Martin Taupau’s return at lock is another boost for the visitors.
Prop Sam Tagataese returns from suspension for the Sharks. Utility Ben Barba is out with an ankle injury, but Flanagan said he is likely to be without the former Dally M medal winner for just two matches.
“It is probably not as bad as first thought,” Flanagan said.
“He is out of the boot now, it was only a week in the boot, he is into his rehab and he should be back for our last round game.”
* The Sharks have a horrible record against the Tigers, winning just three of the past 18 meetings, including just one of eight at Remondis Stadium
* The Sharks have been awarded eight penalties per game, the most of any team, while the Tigers have conceded just under eight per game, the most of any team
* The Sharks have had great go forward this season, averaging over 1450 metres per game, the third most overall. The Tigers who have conceded over 1500 metres, the second most of any team besides the Raiders
(Statistics courtesy of Fox Sports Stats)