Argentina captain Pablo Matera has signed for the Crusaders for next season.
The 27-year-old will join the reigning Super Rugby champions on a one-year deal at the conclusion of his contract with Stade Francais.
Matera captained the Jaguares to their first-ever Super Rugby finals appearance in 2019 but, after the Argentinian club was effectively disbanded following Super Rugby’s shake-up last year, the loose forward shifted north in search of greater professional opportunities.
He expressed an interest in a return to the Southern Hemisphere competition, however, and will link up with arguably the greatest club of the modern era when he heads to New Zealand for the 2022 season.
Matera has been a solid performer for the Jaguares and Pumas for a number of years but it was his passion and performance in Argentina’s historic first-ever victory over the All Blacks last year that really put his name on the radar.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 30, 2021
While there’s no doubting his on-field prowess, Matera was stood down shortly after the win and stripped of his captaincy after racist social media comments from the past emerged in the wake of the victory.
Although he was later reinstated into the Pumas, it’s the comments he made that have left some wondering why the Crusaders would be interested in signing the 66-cap flanker.
That’s especially true, given the Crusaders have undergone a significant review in recent years to determine whether the franchise’s identity and symbolism were appropriate for the modern era following the racism-driven Christchurch massacre in early 2019 – which prompted the team to change their logo and adapt their brand.
As such, the signing has been met by a mixed response.
The Crusaders have signed Argentina's Pablo Matera.
Reading the replies, etc, there are two very different reactions from fans.
No grey area whatsoever.
— The Loose Head (@TheLooseH) April 30, 2021
Some are excited to see one of the best loose forwards in the world playing in New Zealand.
Pablo Matera is an incredible signing by the Crusaders, and is a significant boost for the new NZ/Aus/Pacific competition in 2022. Among world’s Top 10 players IMO.
— Paul Cully (@paulcullystuff) April 30, 2021
That's an incredible signing by the @crusadersrugby. Very interested to see what Scott Robertson does with his loose forwards next year
— Ollie Ritchie (@OllieRitchie1) April 30, 2021
While some are unsure whether Christchurch is the right destination for the Puma
The Crusaders, of all teams, adding Pablo Matera to their squad in 2022 doesn't seem very fair.
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) April 30, 2021
Top player and a quality signing, although he blocks the pathway for a rookie. It’s not like the Crusaders are short of quality loose forwards. Having said that Tyler Ardron was outstanding for the Chiefs.
— Steve-Hale (@SteveHa09255868) April 30, 2021
All and sundry, however, acknowledged that Matera is a huge talent and someone that could help the Crusaders continue to set the Super Rugby standard.
Matera will compete with the likes of Tom Christie and Cullen Grace for minutes in the loose forwards while the likes of Ethan Blackadder, Sione Havili Talitui and Whetukamokamo Douglas are yet to confirm where they will be playing their rugby next season.
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