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TJ Perenara sparked All Blacks' heartfelt gesture to Diego Maradona before Pumas Test

All Blacks captain Sam Cane says the heartfelt gesture made to late football legend Diego Maradona and Argentina before his side's Test against the Pumas on Saturday came from halfback TJ Perenara.

The All Blacks made headlines with their dominant final outing in 2020 — a 38-0 win over the Pumas — but it was also their actions before the match that captured the world's attention.

Before performing the haka, Cane broke from the front of the spearhead formation to present a special All Blacks jersey on halfway to the Pumas which had the number 10 on it — Maradona's playing number — as well as the football legend's name.

The gesture was met with applause from the Newcastle crowd and praise from all around the world.

After the match, Cane revealed the idea came from within the team.

"The idea came from TJ Perenara," Cane said.

"It was just a gesture, token paying our respects to an Argentinian legend, but a world legend in his field."

Cane said he personally didn't know much about football but could still appreciate the gravitas that Maradona had in global sport.

"I think it was the right thing to do. Rugby is a game first and foremost built on respect, and it was the respectful and right thing to do."

A similar gesture was performed by the Māori All Blacks during their 2016 tour when they presented a jersey to Munster before their match which had the letters "AF" on the back in honour of the Irish club's late coach Anthony Foley who had died just weeks before.

Māori All Blacks players present a shirt in memory of former Munster coach Anthony Foley. Source: Getty

At the time, Māori captain Ash Dixon presented the jersey to Foley's sons in a gesture that was equally recognised for its respect and emotion.

While no one from the Maradona family was present on Saturday for the gesture, Pumas captain Pablo Matera said his team and Argentina as a nation were touched by the moment.

“I didn’t know [about the tribute] until I did the coin toss with Sam Cane and he told me about it,” Matera said.

“I’m really thankful for that. Diego Maradona was obviously huge for Argentina, so I’m really thankful for that gesture from the All Blacks.”

Maradona died on Wednesday, aged 60, of a heart attack in a house outside Buenos Aires where he had been recovering from a brain operation 3 November.