'Getting him on the field in whatever position is key': The 'point of difference' Pablo Matera can bring to the Crusaders
A future teammate of Pablo Matera has had his say on what the fiery Argentinian captain can bring to the Crusaders next year.
Few rugby fans will forget Matera’s inspirational impact last year in leading his country to a first-ever victory over the All Blacks in Sydney. On that day, the Stade Francais and Leicester loose forward showcased an immense work rate and astute breakdown ability, and current Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall believes that the Crusaders can expect more of the same from the 27-year-old come 2022.
“It’s a great signing”, said Hall speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod this week. “We’re pretty fortunate to be able to get a player of that calibre, especially playing Super Rugby. We only need to look at those pictures when he played against the All Blacks, him showing that, in Maori terms, mana; he shows that Argentinian flair and energy and enthusiasm.”
Whilst many fans have perhaps rightly held fears that the Argentinian’s inclusion could present a roadblock to the future nurturing of regional talent, Hall interpreted the signing as being a positive for all parties.
“To be able to have a [player of that calibre] in our environment, it’s not only going to be great to have him as a player,” Hall said, “but for the young guys coming through, having a player like that who can add knowledge to our group, it’s only going to benefit us moving forward.”
Former Blues hooker James Parsons agreed that, from a technical standpoint, Matera could add excellence and flexibility to Robertson’s team whilst competing for places with the current crop of talented loose forwards at the Crusaders.
“What I like about it is around that breakdown and improving that breakdown area – a guy like him, with the young guys in your group, he can only enhance their ability to improve in that area,” Parsons said.
“When he steps on the field, he is automatically going to improve that area, and he can play six, seven and eight I believe.”
The ability of the Argentinian to set breakdown and defensive standards, be it at club level with the Super Rugby runners-up in 2019, or at national level for the Pumas, makes him a valuable asset and an intelligent signing that both Hall and Parsons agree has the stamp of Scott Robertson all over it.
“It’s a Razor signing,” commented Hall. “He likes to think outside the box and I think Digby Ioane was another one that came in in 2017 and Roger (Ronan O’Gara) in coaching and Mark Jones as well. [He] just thinks outside the box.”
David Havili has been banging on the #AllBlacks' selection door for some time now – but it's his somewhat surprising move to the midfield that could cement his spot in the national set-up. @CrusadersRugby
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) May 3, 2021
That unique thinking is something Parsons also sees in the signing.
“I think he’s a point of difference player, isn’t he? He’s not a typical style loose forward that we’ve got here and he just brings something different. It’s just Razor’s style is about doing things differently and he’s seen something in him. I think we all admire his style of play and I think someone like him wants to come over here and test himself in our competition. I think it can only be a good thing.”
Far from a foregone conclusion, both players also commented that the at times controversial Matera would face stiff competition for places down in Christchurch with a starting place not assured around the likes of an in-form Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie, Sione Havili, Whetukamokamo Douglas and All Black Cullen Grace.
“He’s coming into a competitive area, but one that he’ll enhance and grow as well and,” said Parsons. “That ability to play all three positions is just so powerful and important, because he’s good over the ball, because he’s a good carrier, because he’s abrasive, he’s good in the lineout, he just covers all aspects needed in an international signing because you can only have a few of them in your squad.”
The prospect of increased depth and greater injury cover also marks the importance of the signing for Hall.
“If we continue to keep playing Super Rugby Aotearoa, I look at our loose forward trios around having injuries throughout the year and just adding that depth,” he said.
“Ethan was out for a couple of weeks with his neck injury, Culley was out for a week, Tom Saunders was out for a long period of time so any time you can add depth in that kind of position, especially if we continue to play this crash-and-bash, high-tempo Super Rugby Aotearoa adding a guy like that… Yes he’s world class, but any time you can just keep adding depth, especially into the loose forward position, is going to be a massive move forward.”
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