After medical checks, the Springboks back was able to continue.
“It was a tough game, we defended pretty well, we had plenty of energy, but we were beaten by a better team,” Highlanders captain Ben Smith said. “We had to work hard as a back three to cover the midfield (gap) and the wingers did really well.”
The Sharks, who have been difficult to break down but still lost their three previous games, also spent 20 minutes with 14 men after lock Stephan Lewies and centre J.P Pietersen were sin-binned by referee Ben O’Keeffe either side of half time.
Both were yellow carded after a succession of defensive penalties, which were effective in thwarting numerous Highlanders attacking opportunities.
The first half scoring was restricted to two April penalties and one by Lima Sopoaga to give the visitors a fortunate 6-3 lead at the break after they conceded five successive penalties on their tryline in the final 10 minutes.
April and Sopoaga traded two penalties each in the second half before Highlanders’ winger Matt Faddes then scored the game’s first try with a little more than 20 minutes remaining.
That try, which gave the hosts a 14-12 lead, looked enough until April slotted his fifth penalty.
Sopoaga had an opportunity to seal it for the home side with a little under 90 seconds remaining when he set up for a drop goal attempt but it sailed wide.
It was the second successive one-point loss for the Highlanders, who had won their previous five games before they lost 28-27 to the Queensland Reds in Brisbane two weeks ago.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O’Brien)