Queensland playmaker Quade Cooper will miss Saturday's Super Rugby qualifier against the Sharks after he was handed a one-week ban for a high tackle on Waratahs back Berrick Barnes.
Cooper was yellow carded and placed on report for tackling his Australia team-mate 'above the shoulder line' in the 63rd minute of this weekend's clash at Suncorp Stadium, which the Reds won 32-16 to seal a play-off spot.
Following a marathon five-hour hearing via video link on Monday, SANZAR judicial officer Paul Tully delivered the guilty verdict that threatens to undermine the Reds' title defence.
The decision is a major blow to the reigning champions, who won their last six regular-season games to finish top of the Australian Conference.
A disappointed Cooper immediately took to Twitter to express faith in his team-mates on Monday night, saying: "Thank you for the concern and support! Our team has worked very hard ... the outcome is a week suspension. I have faith in my team and my team-mates."
Tully said of the verdict: "Whilst in the process of a tackle on Berrick Barnes, there was principle contact with the chest but also with the neck such as to make the tackle dangerous in contravention of Law 10.4 (e).
"Mr Cooper's record is unblemished save for a two-week suspension in 2010. He has played Super Rugby for the past six years as well as a significant number of Test matches for Australia during this time.
"It is also a matter of significance that the SANZAR rules allow consideration be given to the importance of games to be played during the Super Rugby finals series and as such, this has been taken into account as a mitigating circumstance.
"It follows that Quade Cooper is suspended from all forms of rugby for one week up to and including the 21st of July 2012."
Utility Ben Lucas and inside-centre Mike Harris are the front runners to take over the fly-half spot in Cooper's absence.
If the Reds are able to defeat the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium this weekend, Cooper will be available for a likely semi-final showdown with New Zealand Conference winners the Chiefs in Hamilton.