The Hurricanes' playoff hopes could be delivered a sledgehammer blow when Neemia Tialata appears before the Super 14 judiciary tonight.
Tialata has been cited for a dangerous tackle after he upended Force wing Dane Haylett-Petty in a pro-wrestling-style suplex throw late in the Hurricanes' 21-10 win in Wellington last Friday.
The tighthead prop faces at least a two-week ban under the "lower end" of recommended penalties in the International Rugby Board's regulations, where the top end sanction is 10 weeks or more.
A two-week ban would see Tialata miss Friday night's crucial "quarterfinal" against the Blues and a semifinal next week if the Hurricanes confirm their playoff spot with a win at Eden Park.
In-form hooker Andrew Hore said losing the All Blacks prop would be a blow as he rated the Blues scrum as the best in the Super 14. "It will be a battle up front with [All Blacks] Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu there, and John Afoa's going all right.
"Hopefully, we can step up and give it a crack but it will be a big loss if Neemia gets a week."
Former All Blacks prop Richard Loe slammed the Hurricanes props a few weeks ago, suggesting "you'd struggle to get a day's work out of them" and saying Tialata was unfit and "won't get fit this side of spring".
The comments infuriated the props (and coach Colin Cooper) but seemed to have spurred Tialata and Tim Fairbrother, who have lifted their games.
Hore said some of Loe's criticism had been taken on board and Tialata, Fairbrother and John Schwalger had been working hard.
He was also confident that if Tialata was banned, Schwalger and Fairbrother would cope.
There are several factors working in Tialata's favour, not least Sanzar's judicial officials who have a history of ignoring the IRB's recommended penalties when making decisions.
Tialata was also lucky he was penalised at the time as offences not dealt with on the pitch are often more harshly treated by the judiciary. It was a near-run thing.
Referee Jonathan Kaplan was alerted to the tackle by assistant referee Bryce Lawrence who saw what happened and confirmed its severity by watching a replay on the stadium screen.
The Hurricanes have collected seven different television angles of the tackle and will have the New Zealand Rugby Union's legal hotshot Steve Cottrell arguing Tialata's case.
Tialata was charged with striking when the Hurricanes played the Force in Perth last year, and got off.
Cottrell will argue there was no intent in the tackle, but he may struggle to convince judicial officer Chris Morris that it was not reckless and potentially harmful.