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'I am a rugby player but I am also a rugby fan': Pablo Matera on living out his Crusaders dream

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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Los Pumas star Pablo Matera was elated after his first game of Super Rugby for the Crusaders after beating the Hurricanes 42-32 in Dunedin last night.

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The 28-year-old has settled into Christchurch where the local Argentinian community have embraced Matera’s arrival, with former All Black captain Kieran Read saying fans have been turning up to his house just to say hello.

Matera is well accustomed to Super Rugby after notching 52 caps for the Jaguares, but described his debut for his new club as ‘something special’ as he spoke to Karl Te Nana during a post-match interview with Sky Sport NZ.

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“It was something special, something I was dreaming about for the last couple of months before I arrived in New Zealand,” Matera told Sky Sport NZ.

“It’s been a long journey, I’m really happy to finally experience this and live in New Zealand and play this rugby with the Crusaders. It’s something really emotional for me and my family.”

The former Pumas captain had some flashes with ball-in-hand as well as some industrious work competing at the breakdown where he effected one turnover. He made 12 tackles in defence with one miss.

Comparing the speed of play from the Crusaders compared to his old Jaguares team, Matera described it as ‘the biggest challenge’ for him to adjust to but that this is kind of the rugby he has dreamed of playing since watching New Zealand teams play as a kid.

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“Well it was quick, the speed, the rhythm of the game, I think that is the biggest challenge for me. Obviously it’s hard, but I really enjoyed this kind of rugby that I love to play, I love to watch,” he said.

“I am a rugby player but I am also a rugby fan. I love the rugby here, I have always been watching New Zealand rugby since I was really young. It is a very emotional thing to be here living this experience.”

The Argentinian loose forward admitted he thought playing for a New Zealand franchise was ‘impossible’ until one of his close friends was on the verge of moving to the Blues. When he heard his friend’s story, he started pushing to try and get a chance which eventually came up with the Crusaders.

“One of my mates in Argentina almost came here to play for the Blues. After all the pandemic and MIQ, he couldn’t come here. But that’s when I thought ‘oh maybe there is a chance’. I thought it was impossible,” he said.

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“So that’s when I started dreaming about it and tried to get here. I knew it was going to be hard but I am really enjoying my opportunity here and the possibility of being here.”

Matera said the support from back home has been positive and that ‘everybody’ back home has been missing Super Rugby since their team was disbanded. He hoped that they would support him now he is a Crusader.

“I have been receiving a lot of love, a lot of messages from Argentina back home. Everybody there is missing Super Rugby since the Jaguares are missing from the competition. In a way, we are now part of the competition again. I really hope they follow the Crusaders, I am sure they are.

Although he has switch playing colours, when queried over which country has the better steak Argentina or New Zealand, he could not turn his back on his home land.

“Well that’s a hard one, to be honest you guys have really good steak but I will stick with Argentina,” Matera laughed.

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