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Why the Waratahs passed up on chance to sign new Crusaders recruit and Los Pumas star Pablo Matera

By Sam Smith
Argentina's Pablo Matera. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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The Waratahs have revealed they had the opportunity to sign world-class Argentine loose forward Pablo Matera for the 2022 Super Rugby season.

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However, Waratahs chief executive Paul Doorn told the Sydney Morning Herald that the struggling franchise refrained from making a move for the former Los Pumas captain as it aims to prioritise the recruitment of players in other positions.

Two weeks ago, the Crusaders confirmed the signing of Matera for next year in what has been viewed as a significant piece of business for the Super Rugby Aotearoa champions given the quality the 27-year-old possesses.

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Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos speaks to media

It was Matera, after all, who was at the heart of Argentina’s famous maiden win over the All Blacks last year and was prominent in the Jaguares’ run to the 2019 Super Rugby final.

By acquiring the 69-test international, the Crusaders have bolstered their squad that is already stacked with a plethora of test-level talent, while also sparking plenty of media and public interest given the weight that Matera’s name carries.

It’s that kind of talent and star power that would have served the Waratahs well considering the current rut they find themselves in that led to the sacking of former head coach Rob Penney at the end of March.

The New South Wales side recently finished their Super Rugby AU campaign without a win and now head into the Trans-Tasman competition with the unenviable task of squaring off against all five New Zealand teams.

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Equipped with only a handful of Wallabies, a large swell of inexperienced youngsters and no permanent head coach, there is little reason for celebration at Waratahs headquarters at the moment.

Capturing the signature of Maetra would have represented a beacon of hope for success heading into next year’s new-look Super Rugby competition for the Waratahs and their supporters.

It’s hardly as if Matera wasn’t interested in signing with the Waratahs, despite their current circumstances, either.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that former Waratahs boss Michael Cheika, who worked as an assistant coach for Argentina last year, notified the franchise of the possibility of signing Matera the week prior to the Crusaders’ announcement of their deal with the Stade Francais flanker.

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It came after Los Pumas head coach Mario Ledesma spoke openly of how Matera enjoys Sydney and would be open to playing for the Waratahs during Argentina’s trip to Australia during the 2019 Rugby Championship.

“He loves being here, he loves surfing, he would love to play over here for the Waratahs,” Ledesma told rugby.com.au two years ago.

However, Doorn told the Sydney Morning Herald that the Waratahs’ loose forward contingent is an area of strength for the side, meaning other positional groups of the New South Wales squad have instead been prioritised on the recruitment front.

“We’ve got an amazing group of people that are loose forwards, particularly with Michael Hooper coming back,” he said.

“We’ve just [decided] we need to prioritise the positions we need. As excellent as he would have been, from a leadership perspective, we have some other priorities we’ve got to get sorted before we can look at other options like that.”

Hooper, the Wallabies captain who has been on sabbatical with Toyota Verblitz in Japan this season, will return to the Waratahs next year, adding to the depth of quality they have throughout the back row.

In his place, the likes of Lachlan Swinton and Carlo Tizzano have been at the forefront of the action from the back row, and both will be joined by former Sunwolves powerhouse Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, who returns to Australia after five years in Japan.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Waratahs will instead shift their focus to signing a tighthead prop and lock in a bid to add some muscle to a tight five that has underwhelmed this season.

The Waratahs will play their first match in three weeks this Friday when they face the Hurricanes at the Sydney Cricket Ground in their opening Super Rugby Trans-Tasman match.

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Why the Waratahs passed up on chance to sign new Crusaders recruit and Los Pumas star Pablo Matera

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