A setback for the Highlanders ahead of the toughest stretch of their Super Rugby round robin campaign.

Centre Jason Emery's been banned for four matches after being red carded for his ugly mid-air collision with Sharks fullback Willie le Roux on Friday night.

Emery pleaded guilty to the charge at a SANZAAR judicial hearing, and was downgraded from a base penalty of six weeks to four.

Emery will miss three games, against heavyweights the Brumbies, Chiefs and Crusaders.