It’s been revealed Argentinian rugby star Pablo Matera attempted to join the Waratahs before settling for a Super Rugby contract with the Crusaders.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Matera, a world-class loose forward, initially expressed interest in moving to Sydney for rugby instead of the recently recrowned Super Rugby Aotearoa champions.
Matera has been plying his trade in France after leaving the Jaguares, the only Argentinian Super Rugby franchise, in 2019 but decided he wanted to return to Super Rugby next year for an Australian or New Zealand outfit.
The Waratahs were informed of Matera’s interest through former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika who has close connections to Argentinian rugby due to his assistant coach work with the Pumas last year.
Matera’s interest in the Waratahs comes from his love for Sydney which Pumas coach Mario Ledesma said in 2019 runs deep.
“He loves being [there], he loves surfing, he would love to play… for the Waratahs.”
Waratahs CEO confirmed Paul Doorn told the Sydney Morning Herald they declined though.
“We found out he was interested in a Super Rugby contract probably at the 11th hour I’d suggest,” Doorn said.
“We did know before he had signed with the Crusaders but we’ve got to stick to our guns a bit here.
“We’ve got an amazing group of people that are loose forwards, particularly with Michael Hooper coming back.
“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.”
Matera was announced as a 2022 signing for the Crusaders almost two weeks ago after a month of negotiations.
"He’s a skilful and tenacious player with genuine leadership qualities, who has impressed us with his physicality and work ethic,” coach Scott Robertson said at the time of his signing.
“We’re really excited about him joining us next season and sharing his experience with our young loose forward group who are learning their craft.”
Matera became a hero in Argentina last year after he captained the Pumas to their first ever win over the All Blacks in Sydney but his reputation was tarnished months later after "xenophobic and racist" comments he made in 2011 from his social media account resurfaced.
Matera was stripped of the Pumas captaincy as a result.