Sharks scrumhalf Rory Kockott has been banned for a week and will miss their crucial clash against the Waratahs.
Kockott pleaded guilty to striking Highlanders flank Adam Thomson, but his defence argued that the red card was sufficient punishment. However, judicial officer Dekker Govender found Kockott’s act to be a reckless open-handed slap that deserved suspension up to and including 9 May.
The Sharks now face a dilemma in their backline selections for the match that sees four play five on the log. Charl McLeod could replace Kockott, but another option could see Ruan Pienaar move to scrumhalf.
Pienaar came on at No 10 in the second half of the unconvincing victory over the Highlanders after several weeks out with a knee injury, and where he will play could depend on Frans Steyn’s fitness. Steyn also suffered a knee ailment and limped off on Saturday.
The availability of Adi Jacobs, who is reported to miss the remainder of the tournament as well as the British & Irish Lions series with a shoulder injury, will also be determined during the week.
With two weeks to go the Sharks’ backline depth is wearing thin as they attempt to earn a home semi-final.