Pumas skipper Matera to join Super Rugby's Crusaders

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Pablo Matera captained Argentina to their first win over New Zealand last November

Argentina captain Pablo Matera will play Super Rugby next year with New Zealand heavyweights the Canterbury Crusaders, the Christchurch-based club said Friday.

The confirmation came after Matera, 27, told French media he wanted a stint in the southern hemisphere competition before returning to Paris to see out the final year of his contract with Stade Francais.

"In response to speculation about Pablo Matera's playing future, the Crusaders can confirm the Argentinian loose forward has signed with the club for the 2022 Super Rugby season," the Crusaders said in a statement.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said Matera, who has 69 Test caps and led Los Pumas to their first ever win over the All Blacks last year, was one of the premier loose forwards in world rugby.

"He's a skilful and tenacious player with genuine leadership qualities, who has impressed us with his physicality and work ethic," he said.

"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 told specialist French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique that he originally eyed a stint in South Africa before the country's teams left Super Rugby for the Pro 14's Rainbow Cup.

He has excelled in Super Rugby previously, guiding Argentina's Jaguares to a maiden final in 2019, when they lost to the Crusaders.

The Crusaders are short-priced favourites to defend the Super Rugby Aotearoa title they won at a canter last year -- adding to the record 10 Super Rugby titles already in their trophy cabinet.

Kiwi outfits limit the number of players in their squads who are ineligible for the All Blacks, with Otago Highlanders' Japanese back-rower Kazuki Himeno a rare exemption.

"It's not easy to join a franchise from New Zealand. Firstly you need a visa. The teams have a quota on foreign players," Matera said.

"They prioritise their young players, from their academies. It's very good, but you can't take the place of a youngster."

Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge said the South Island outfit was excited about signing Matera for the 2022 season.

"We are still working through the finer detail of this with Pablo and his agent, but we look forward to welcoming him in to our environment once that is complete," he said.

Matera was briefly suspended last year after racist tweets he sent in 2011 and 2013 resurfaced, prompting him to say he was "deeply ashamed".

He joined the Parisians in 2019 from the Jaguares, where he played four seasons.

The Buenos Aires-based franchise were withdrawn from Super Rugby last year by the Argentine Rugby Union for financial reasons linked to the coronavirus pandemic.