When Mate Ma'a Tonga take on the Kiwis at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday, they will do so without the services of Andrew Fifita.

The Tongan enforcer was handed a three-match ban by the NRL's judiciary committee after an unsuccessful bid to have a charge for a grade two crusher tackle downgraded.

The Cronulla Sharks prop was cited for a tackle attempt on Canberra's Ryan Sutton early in their clash last weekend, and the three-man panel deemed there was sufficient evidence of foul play in the tackle.

Fifita's legal team pleaded guilty to the initial charge in a 90-minute hearing last night, but gave evidence of five cases similar to either grade one or two crusher tackles over the past four seasons that suggested Fifita's case deserved a downgrade.


However, the panel decided the charge warranted in excess of a base points penalty.

Junior Tatola will come into the match day squad side for Mate Ma'a Tonga in Fifita's place for Saturday night's test as a starting option. Addin Fonua-Blake, Peni Terepo and debutant Sitili Tupouniua could also put their hands up to man the starting role.

Tongan halfback Tuimoala Lolohea said the side were confident would have had his charge downgraded, but backed Tatola to come in a get the job done for the side in what will be just his second test.

"He's a quiet young boy. I was with him at the Wests Tigers and he was also quiet," Lolohea said of Tatola.

"He's done a job for us before, when we played against Samoa (in 2018) and he had a pretty good game - scored a try and it was a good try as well.

"I'm sure if he comes in he'll do the same job as Andrew does."