Cronulla are flying high ahead of their crucial clash with Penrith this weekend.

The Sharks are on a five-game winning streak that has launched them to third place on the ladder, but it’s their most recent victories – back-to-back wins over the Melbourne Storm and North Queensland Cowboys – that have them primed for their most important game of the year so far.

“It’s really got our confidence up (beating the Storm and Cowboys), the fact that we were able to play the way we wanted during those games and win,” Sharks second-rower Briton Nikora told ZeroTackle.

“It lets us know that we can head into this game with the same mindset.”

Though they’re confident, the knowledge that they’re playing the best side in the competition by a considerable margin has seen an increase in intensity from everyone across the park at training this week.

“It’s been both (coaches and players) ramping up the intensity. Coming up against these guys, they’ve won the premiership and are top of the table.

“It’s a great test of where we’re at but we’ll be sticking to the game-plan we’ve had all year.”

Cronulla lost a lot of experience prior to the start of this campaign but the addition of players like Dale Finucane and Nicho Hynes, as well Cameron McInnes’ return from a season-long injury, have helped plug the gaps in a young Sharks side.

“They’ve each brought some unique experience with the way they train and go about their business,” Nikora said.

“It’s really motivated us younger players to pick up our game and train even harder. It’s been great having them around.”

And it’s not just the senior players having a positive effect on the squad.

“The coaching staff have kept the same game plan they started talking about in pre-season.

“All the boys are just loving their football.”

In a late blow for the Sharks, winger Sione Katoa will likely miss the rest of the season after it was revealed he went under the knife earlier in the week to treat a pectoral injury.

The Sharks’ game against the ladder-leading Panthers will take place this Saturday afternoon at BlueBet Stadium in Penrith. Kick-off is at 5.30pm.