Highlander Sam Gilbert has been handed a five-week ban for his dangerous tip-tackle on Waratahs loose forward Michael Hooper, a suspension that will end his Super Rugby Pacific season.
The sanction by Sanzaar was handed down on Tuesday night and rules Gilbert out of all rugby up to and including June 25. The Super Rugby Pacific final is due to be held on June 18.
The Highlanders, still in the running for the last quarter-final spot, will find the going tougher without their converted first-five Gilbert.
The former wing had done a good job in the No.10 jersey until his moment of madness in the 29th minute of his team’s 32-20 defeat to the Waratahs in Dunedin on Sunday.
With Mitch Hunt still recovering from concussion, Marty Banks is the Highlanders' only recognised available first-five.
The Sanzaar Foul Play Review Committee deemed Gilbert’s incident, in which he tipped Hooper on to his head/neck area in a botched ruck cleanout, “mid-range”, which carries a starting-point sanction of 10 weeks.
However, Gilbert’s ban was cut in half after “mitigating factors”, Sanzaar said in a statement.
"Taking into account mitigating factors including the player's clean judicial record, his acceptance of foul play, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to five weeks."
Hooper, the Wallabies captain, was vocal in his opinion that Gilbert should be banned for the act.
"I don’t wish that on anyone,"’ Hooper told Sky Sport after the match. "These things happen in this game, but I was disappointed that it happened to me.
"He [Gilbert] should miss some weeks I think."
Hooper scored a fine individual try moments after the red card was shown to Gilbert and while the Highlanders came back to narrow the score 19-15 soon after halftime, their continued ill-discipline cost them.
“Our discipline again crept up on us,” captain Aaron Smith said afterwards. “We just can’t play rugby with 14 men, and we were pretty passive on defence as well for big patches of that game, which is pretty disappointing.”