Highlanders backrower James Haskell has been suspended for three Super Rugby matches for punching an opponent during a Super Rugby rugby match between the Highlanders and the Cheetahs.
Haskell pleaded guilty to SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Mike Heron for punching Cheetahs player Justin Downey twice as he left a scrum in the 33rd minute of the match between the Cheetahs and Highlanders at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
There was also a scuffle that broke out between several players following the incident but Haskell was the only player cited.
Haskell was shown a yellow card for the punch and the referee also raised a white card for the incident to be reveiwed.
The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Heron said of his finding, "I discussed the incident with the player, his lawyer and Highlanders personnel. It was immediately accepted that the conduct did amount to foul play. I accept, and the footage confirms, that Haskell was responding to provocation in that he was being held into the dissembling scrum (unlawfully it seems) and it appeared that he was being grabbed in a particularly sensitive area."
"The player agreed that this did not excuse his conduct, but it was submitted and I accept that it was some explanation for the loss of control that occurred. That said, there was no argument that the conduct was unacceptable."
"In the circumstances I find that the conduct was intentional, repeated and dangerous, but in the context of what appeared to be significant provocation. I find the conduct warrants an entry point of mid-range. "
The former England international will miss the Highlanders' matches against the Sharks in Durban, the Hurricanes and the Bulls.