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Exclusive interview with the Pumas' Pablo Matera

Argentina are a success story on the international stage. (AAP Image/AFP/Marty Melville)
Roar Guru
5th September, 2016
27

One of the most important young players of Argentina is Pablo Matera, with an amazing growing performance both in the Pumas and Jaguares.

The young player who has been having a great season so far was born in 1993. He is 1,93 m tall and weights 110 kilos.

he proudly wears the number 6 on his jersey. Just before catching the plane on his way to New Zealand, Pablo was kind enough to give us some of his limited time – he had to go on the plane – for this short Q and A.

I thought it was worth sharing it with you all at The Roar after the positive repercussion the Julian Montoya’s interview had on the site.

NB: Pablo, please tell us about your beginnings in the game of rugby…
PM: Well I began playing in Alumni (Top 14 club in Argentina) when I was 14-year-old, and there I went all the way to M19. At 19 I had already played M20 for the junior Pumas (Pumitas). I played the Rugby World Cup M20 and after that I was called in to tour with the Pumas.

NB: You also played in Europe, please tell me how did you get there at such young age…
PM: I played for the Leicester Tigers in England. When I played in RCH 2013 I shared the team with Marcos Ayerza and Gonzalo Camacho that were playing for Leicester at the time. The coach of the Leicester Tigers asked those two players their opinion about me. Then I received an offer from the team and went for 2013-14 premier competition in England.

NB: When did you make your first appearance with the Pumas and how many cups have you played since then?
PM: My debut was against South Africa in Soweto in 2013. After Pensacola, I ended up playing the Junior Rugby World Cup. Luck was on my side because the injuries of Fernandez Lobbe open up a chance for me to play. I ended up playing all the RCH as well as the November window with the Pumas! I do not keep count of cups but it should be more than 25.

NB: Tell me a bit about the Rugby World Cup 2015
PM: Playing a world cup in my opinion it is the highest thing you can aim as a player. Having the opportunity to play one at early age keeps the window open for more. Hopefully if I stay healthy I will do everything I can to be a part on the next cup. Representing one’s country is always very important but being in the Rugby World Cup takes another dimension. It is my child dream come true.

NB: What about signing for the Jaguares?
PB: Since I became part of the Pumas there were always talks about the possibility of a franchise of SR based in Argentina. I knew that if that was to happen I wanted to be part of it.

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I remember that of which I envy the most while playing in Europe, was that the players could play professionally in front of their home crowds. That is why I was willing to give up some money in order to play at home. And that has been my idea all along.

NB: How was the first experience in SR?
PB: For me SR is the most competitive tournament in the world. Obviously this first experience was challenging: the travel, the intensity of playing a week in and a week out against teams that are used to play at this level every weekend.

The only similar experience we had was the RCH but that was only six games a year. We had to be a month away from home with so many different time zones. We knew from the beginning that it was going to be a challenge.

On the positive side I think it was great for all of us to play at this level for so many weeks. We all benefited a great deal from this experience, made us better players, there is no doubt about that.

NB: Which was the best team you played against last SR edition and the player that you like the most?
PM: For me the best team I played against was Highlanders. Everybody talks about their outstanding attacking game but I like the speed in which they change from the defensive status to the offensive one.

Their attacking game is based on defence. And my favourite player is Kieran Read, even though he plays in a different position than mine. I consider him to the best player in the world.

NB: Evaluate the overall performance of the Jaguares in SR
PM: I think the team grew little by little in each game. To be completely honest with you, if I look at the table at the end of the tour, and I see that we ended up in a place that it is not what we set out to be, I will be not very pleased.

However, we know that a team like the Crusaders finished in the last place in their first season. In their second season they were in the middle of the pack, and in their third appearance – as we all well know – they became champions.

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There is a learning curve you must go through that you cannot skip. It was good for us to really find out where we are and where do we have to go from here on. You have to play in order to face reality, and quite often it differs somehow from what you had in mind.

NB: What is the difference of playing for the Jaguares and for the Pumas?
PM: Although 99 per cent of the players are the same, the strategy and circumstances are very different. In terms of rugby in Jaguares we are instructed to play from everywhere in the field regardless the quality of the ball we have.

The Pumas divide the field in zones and we only play the quality balls. The objectives are different, at least this past year. At the Jaguares we tried to develop our skills by playing from everywhere and now those skills are used in The Pumas in a much more control environment.

In Pumas you are all in a hotel with everybody without the normal distractions that you have when you go home everyday after work. Also the travel is not as much as the SR and the overall organisation is quite different. Finally, the difference is in the head. There is a plus when one gets to wear the Pumas jersey.

NB: What are the objectives of the Pumas for the rest of the year?
PM: The objective is to win five games from the beginning of the RCH until the end of the year. We won the first one last weekend and we would like to win another one before the end of the tournament. Then we want to win three of the last four in the window of November.

NB: The press and media has been very critic about the indiscipline of the players in Jaguares and Pumas. Do you think there is something about the team that has not been done to amend this issue?
PM: I am aware that I have been penalised a lot, but I think we are paying some dues for being the new kid on the block. We have been working really hard about this. We know that it is very rare to be able to win a game with more than 12 penalties against you.

The objective in every game is not to go over nine penalties – hopefully we might have fewer than that – and that is what we are very focused on.

NB: Do you have anything to say about the last two games against SA?
PM: I feel that we played both games better than them but the mistakes we made in the last eight minutes of the first one cost us the game. We tried to fix things for the last game and everything was going our way until some injuries brought some fears from the game in SA. On the other hand, we showed some character and won the game.

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NB : Te ABs are on the way, what do you have to say about that game?
PM: It is a complicated week because of the travel, adapting to the time zones, and probably the most difficult game we will have in the entire year. Playing against the best team in the world in their turf speaks for itself of the challenge ahead. We expect to play great and win it, but we are aware of what is in front of us. There is always a day, when the best teams of the world lose. Let us hope for this weekend be the case.

NB: Thanks Pablo, I wish you the best
PB: Thank you for the chance to speak about what I enjoy the most!