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'He plays on the edge': Crusaders have no reservations about Pablo Matera

By Tom Vinicombe
Pablo Matera. (Photo by David Neilson/Photosport)

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Argentinian international Pablo Matera faced a tough week ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific final, not knowing whether he’d be available or not to play for the Crusaders at Eden Park.

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Matera was sent off in the Crusaders’ win over the Chiefs last weekend after receiving two yellow cards – one for repeated team infringements and one for a dangerous tackle on flyhalf Bryn Gatland.

Having received two other yellow cards throughout the season, Matera was summoned to face the Sanzaar judiciary on Wednesday night. Thankfully for Matera and his teammates, the loose forward was cleared to play in Saturday’s final between the Crusaders and Blues, and the 28-year-old now has a chance to secure the first silverware of his professional career.

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Reacting to the first All Blacks squad of the season.
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Reacting to the first All Blacks squad of the season.

“[We were] as confident as we could have been,” coach Scott Robertson said on Thursday after naming Matera in the No 6 jersey for the grand final. “You go into those things with all the right intentions but we came out with a hugely emotional Pablo.

“[They] could have gone either way when you go into those things [but] we put a really good case [together]. We’re really thankful the process was really robust and strong and we’re just pleased it came out on the right side for him and the team.

“It’s a final and for him to come all this way and play some sublime footy – he’s been one of the form players for a number of games in a row there – and then to realise he could have missed the final, he’s brought his young family across the world to play and to win a championship. he’s never won anything so for him to have watched that would have been really hard so he’s really pleased he can run out with us on Saturday night.”

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Saturday night’s clash in Auckland will mark Matera’s second Super Rugby final after the Jaguares fell in a valiant effort against the Crusaders in Christchurch back in 2019. Now, Matera has a shot at taking home the top prize while playing for the team that prevented him from tasting glory three years ago.

Despite clocking up four cards throughout the year, Robertson gave no indications he had any reservations selecting Matera for the final, with the Pumas star set to clock up his 14th appearance for the Crusaders for the season.

“He’s tough, he’s physical, he plays on the edge,” Robertson said of the in-form flanker. “A couple of those cards, the reason [the potential ban] did get dismissed is they were both team fouls. They were technical fouls. He was taking a hit that was a high tackle and that was the yellow card in the end.

“He’s been pretty good for us so we’re stoked to have him.”

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Matera will team up with Tom Christie and Cullen Grace in the starting loose forward trio on Saturday night – the fifth time the combination have run out together this season – while youngster Corey Kellow has been named on the bench.

While Matera was signed on just a one-year deal, Robertson refrained from confirming whether the Argentinian would necessarily be playing his club rugby elsewhere next season.

“That’s a conversation for next week,” Robertson said when probed whether Matera could be back with the Crusaders in 2023.

Saturday evening’s Super Rugby Pacific grand final is set to kick off at 7:05pm NZT from Eden Park.

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