Sharks v Wests Tigers preview - 2017 Round 15

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Wests Tigers Saturday 7:30pm at PointsBet Stadium

Tigers look to seize perfect opportunity against depleted Sharks

The Sharks have been ravaged by the Origin period this year and come into this week's clash with the Tigers missing a host of names including Andrew Fifita, James Maloney, Jack Bird, Valentine Holmes and Wade Graham. With just two points separating second position from seventh, a victory over the lowly Tigers is crucial if the Sharks want to contest for the Minor Premiership. The Sharks had a perfect chance to do just that last week against the Storm, yet ultimately suffered a last-gasp 18-13 loss. Coach Shane Flanagan will hope that fringe first-graders Kurt Capewell, Edrick Lee, Fa'amanu Brown, Daniel Mortimer and Jeremy Latimore all rise to the challenge this weekend as they replace Cronula's notable absentees. However, Flanagan will be confident that his side can certainly hold their own in defence, with the Sharks currently ranked the best defensive side in the competition, conceding just 13.2 points per game.

Meanwhile, although the Tigers only lose two players to Origin duties, those two are arguably the most important in their side - James Tedesco and Aaron Woods. Their absence, however, is offset by the return of halfback Luke Brooks. Furthermore, Ivan Cleary's men will take confidence out of their effort against the Sharks in Round 9 earlier this year. The Tigers led at the break before injuries to Tedesco and Woods saw them fall to a 22-16 defeat. They face a much more achievable task this week against a depleted Sharks outfit and will be determined to keep their faltering season alive after last week's disappointing 40-18 loss to the Roosters.

Last meeting: Round 9 2017 - Wests Tigers 16 Sharks 22

Just six rounds ago the Sharks outlasted the Tigers in a tense clash at Leichhardt.

Who to watch: While the Sharks may be missing a number of players due to Origin duties, one man they will certainly be glad to have suiting up on Saturday night is skipper Paul Gallen. Gallen has been inspiration for the Cronulla side this year, averaging 182 metres and 31 tackles per game. Another similar performance on Saturday night is even more important seeing that Fifita and Graham will both be missing.

Without James Tedesco at fullback, the Tigers will need even more explosive power from winger David Nofoaluma. Nofoaluma has made a strong start to his 2017 campaign, averaging 168 running metres and 5.9 tackle busts per game. If the Tigers are to prevail on Saturday night, they will need to test Cronulla's impenetrable defence - and perhaps Nofoaluma's sheer power could do just that.

The favourite: The Sharks are heavy favourites against the 15th placed Tigers.

My tip: The Sharks should still have too much class here despite a string of key absences. Sharks by 8

1. Gerard Beale 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Kurt Capewell 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Edrick Lee 6. Fa'amanu Brown 7. Chad Townsend 8. Sam Tagataese 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Jayson Bukuya 13. Paul Gallen 14. Daniel Mortimer 15. Chris Heighington 16. Jeremy Latimore 17. Joseph Paulo

1. Kevin Naiqama 2. David Nofoaluma 16. Esan Marsters 4. Moses Suli 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6. Tuimoala Lolohea 7. Luke Brooks 8. Tim Grant 9. Matt McIlwrick 10. Ava Seumanufagai 11. Sauaso Sue 12. Kyle Lovett 13. Elijah Taylor 14. Matthew Eisenhuth 15. Jj Felise 3. Michael Chee-Kam 17. Jacob Liddle

Referees: Henry Perenara, Dave Munro; Sideline Officials: Michael Wise, Jarrod Cole; Video Referees: Ashley Klein, Bryan Norrie;

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