UPDATE: The Waratahs say the door would be open for Pumas skipper Pablo Matera should the international star show some interest in coming to Ausralia down the track.
Flanker Matera is heading to France after the Rugby World Cup, on a three-year deal, but would be back on the open market as a 29-year-old, closing in on the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The dominant Argentinian backrower, who was arguably the best player in Super Rugby in 2019 and won man-of-the-match in a losing Jaguares side in the final, is so in love with Sydney he would like to move here and play for NSW in the future.
Or so says Pumas coach Mario Ledesma.
"He loves being here, he loves surfing, he would love to play over here for the Waratahs,” Ledesma told RUGBY.com.au this week while in camp in Sydney with his team.
"He is going to Paris after the World Cup but I think he would love to play here.
"The dream is to play for Argentina, obviously, but if he had to choose a franchise it would be this one.
"He would be challenging Hoops for the no.7!”
The Waratahs signing Matera as a foreign marquee star would be a massive coup but it’d have to wait until the 2023 season, after the brilliant flanker recently signed a deal with Stade Francais through to the end of the 2021-22 season.
Waratahs general manager of football Tim Rapp said while he wasn't keen to speculate, the team would be "silly" not to entertain any interest if Matera was available.
“While we’re focused on developing our own talent in New South Wales, if a player of Pablo’s quality is on the market and interested in living in Sydney you’d be silly not to have a conversation with him," he said.
"In saying that, he’s contracted elsewhere and we’re not going to get into hypotheticals about player movement in 2023.”
Matera wouldn't come cheap, with the 26-year-old reportedly set to become one of the highest paid players at the Parisian club.
But a challenge with Michael Hooper will come a lot earlier, with Matera to lead the Pumas into battle with the Wallabies on Saturday in Brisbane.
The Jaguares backrower was excellent last year but has taken his game to a new level in 2019, with and without the ball.
Matera has been the standout player for a Jaguares team that collectively impressed this year, by making the final, and Ledesma is such a big admirer, he made him Test captain.
"He got the man of the match in that final and everybody was talking about him after the game but he doesn't pay much attention about that,” Ledesma said.
"Obviously his consistency (is good), he never really has really bad games,” Ledesma said.
"He had very good games on both sides of the ball because he's really hard defensively and he's really hard with the ball, a little it of rugby league in him and he's been kicking and offloading. He's a really balanced player, really all-round good player and good bloke too.”
Ledesma said Matera’s no-nonsense personality makes him a very good leader.
"He's great. he's authentic,” he said.
"You don't find that running around the streets, he's really, really authentic, he can talk to you in the eye and tell you how it is but in a good way. He's really good with the boys and he challenges the boys, he challenges the staff and he's just a guy that wants the best for the team and for Argentinian rugby.
"If we're not challenging each other … there's only one way to go and it's down.”
Matera spent a year at Leicester as a youngster before returning for the Jaguares’ first season in 2016.
While his development has probably only bene marginally helped by Argentina’s four seasons in Super Rugby, Ledesma said there is no doubt the overall strength of the Pumas has been boosted by the Jaguares’ campaigns.
"I think in his (Matera’s) case, he was already really good but I think of other players that the experience and the intensity and the level of competition that they get from Super Rugby, made them better players,” he said.
"I think Pablo was outstanding already but we have many other players that develop really good just by competing against better players. In the future, I would love us to have another franchise if we have the depth.
"They've been gaining experience throughout every year and if you take only the statistics of the game they've played and the games they've won, we kept winning more games the next year and the next year and last year was the first time we qualified for the quarter-finals.
"This year, we went to the finals. It's just a progression and it talks highly of the processes and the systems that have been put in place for the last couple of years in Argentina."
The Wallabies host the Pumas at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday July 27, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on Network Ten, FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.