The Sharks badly need a win after four straight losses but meeting the side that's unbeaten so far in 2021 - the Panthers - isn't the preferred way to snap a run of bad luck.
But whichever way this match ends up, Cronulla will want to put on a far better show than the 24-point thumping they received at AAMI Park last round after leading the Storm 8-6 at half-time. The Sharks previous three losses were between six to eight points.
The Panthers are showing no signs of lethargy or lack of intent despite the wins ticking over with relative ease - they concede an average of only six points a game, although Manly extracted a little more (28-16) in Bathurst last Saturday.
While Penrith won both their 2020 meetings handsomely, there have been five draws with the Sharks over their 107 meetings with Cronulla holding the upper hand 56-46.
Match: Panthers v Sharks
Round 9 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
Panthers: Spencer Leniu is out, with the club saying he will play big minutes for Penrith's NSW Cup team, while Scott Sorensen joins the bench. J'maine Hopgood will be the 18th man.
Ivan Cleary indicated Kurt Capewell (ribs) will play after training well this week. Mitch Kenny and Leniu dropped off the extended bench on Thursday.
The Panthers have scored 120 points in three successive wins over the Sharks.
Sharks: Matt Moylan replaces Braydon Trindall on the bench and Josh Dugan will be the 18th man.
Centre Jesse Ramien (glute) returns after being ruled out of the Melbourne game with utility Teig Wilton slipping back to the interchange where he takes the place of injured prop Braden Hamlin-Uele.
Hamlin-Uele is set to miss eight weeks with a syndesmosis injury in a blow to Cronulla's forward stocks. Ronaldo Mulitalo (knee) has had his return pushed back at least a week.
Jenson Taumoepeau and Trindall were omitted from the squad 24 hours before kick-off.
The Sharks have conceded 110 points in four consecutive losses.
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan EdwardsFullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Charlie StainesWinger for Sharks is number 2 Mawene Hiroti
Centre for Panthers is number 3 Stephen CrichtonCentre for Sharks is number 3 Will Chambers
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Matt BurtonCentre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Sharks is number 5 Connor Tracey
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome LuaiFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Shaun Johnson
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend
Prop for Panthers is number 8 Moses LeotaProp for Sharks is number 8 Aiden Tolman
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai KoroisauHooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Kurt Capewell2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah YeoLock for Sharks is number 13 Toby Rudolf
Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Tyrone MayInterchange for Sharks is number 15 Teig Wilton
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Matthew EisenhuthInterchange for Sharks is number 16 Jack Williams
Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Liam MartinInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Billy Magoulias
Interchange for Panthers is number 18 Scott SorensenInterchange for Sharks is number 18 Matt Moylan
Reserve for Panthers is number 19 J'maine HopgoodReserve for Sharks is number 19 Josh Dugan
- Referee: Chris Butler
- Touch Judge: Jon Stone
- Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
- Senior Review Official: Matt Noyen
Shaun Johnson vs Jarome Luai: Both have silky hands and deceptive feet when it comes to skipping across the defensive line to put a teammate into a hole.
There may be a six-year age difference between these two five-eighths, but they play a similar quick-fire game.
Their ability to pull off an improbable pass, or kick, means they continually put spark in their side's attack - and points on the scoreboard.
The Panthers and Sharks are in the top four for engaging the line - bettered only by the Rabbitohs and Titans. Penrith and Cronulla are also the top two in the NRL for the number of kicks in a game, which points to both sets of halves being amongst the hardest workers on the field.
Head to NRL Pick'Em and get pickin’ to win a share of $100,000 cash every week!