'He's still the captain', 'these are good men': Ledesma backs 'ashamed' Pumas captain, explains left out trio

Tri Nations
by Christy Doran

Pablo Matera won't be condemned for life for his sins of the past, but the Pumas captain, along with teammates Guido Petti and Santiago Socino, will miss their final Tri Nations Test against the Wallabies on Saturday at Bankwest Stadium.

Pumas coach Mario Ledesma confirmed to reporters on Thursday that Matera remained the "captain" despite the blindside flanker being stood down for the Tri Nations finale.

The Tri Nations was rocked on Tuesday when the Argentina Rugby Union stood down Matera, as well as Petti and Socino, for their social media activity on Twitter from 2011-13.

The stunning developments came after Matera's social media activity as a teenager came to light.

Tweets appeared on social media that revealed Matera had published offensive comments about Bolivians and Paraguayans to extremely racist comments about black people.

"SOUTH AFRICA baby! I'm finally leaving this country full of blacks ouch," one tweet read after being put through Google translator.

Another racist tweet read: "Today is a good day to get in the car and drive over blacks."

BE THERE AT BANKWEST STADIUM FOR THE WALLABIES' TRI NATIONS FINALE AGAINST PUMAS. TICKETS HERE

Matera issued an apology via Instagram after the tweets emerged.

"I had a tougher time. I am very ashamed. Apologies to all those who were offended by the atrocities I wrote," he said.

"At that moment I did not imagine who I was going to become. Today I have to take charge of what I said 9 years ago.

"I'm also sorry to my team and my family for the moment they are going through my actions and thanks to the people who love me for their support."

On Thursday, Ledesma confirmed that the trio, including Matera, had reached an agreement with the UAR to miss the Tri Nations finale before once again being eligible for selection.

"They came to an agreement between the Union and the players that they thought it was the best for everybody that it would be best to preserve them from playing," Ledesma told reporters.

Ledesma, the Argentine great who took over the Pumas in 2018 after previously serving as Michael Cheika's scrum coach with the Wallabies, then gave a glowing character reference of his three players and added they had matured since being teenagers.

"What I can say is these are three fine players and they are great human beings," Ledesma said.

"They’ve been suffering a lot this week, their families have suffered a lot this week and it’s really sad to see.

"Obviously they acknowledge what they did and they are really regretful and ashamed with what they did and we all are, we all are, but what I can say is they’re not the same people that they were at 17 or 18 years old.

"They are great men, family men, Pablo has a kid, he’s a great leader and a great example too."

Asked to confirm that Matera would continue to captain the Pumas, Ledesma emphatically said he would.

"Exactly, yes, that’s exactly right. Pablo won’t be playing this game but he’s still the captain," he said.

It was less than a month ago that Matera led the Pumas to arguably their greatest Test victory, as the South Americans beat the All Blacks for the first time 25-15 at Bankwest Stadium.

The victory was made all the more remarkable given the road to Sydney they had faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had seen the majority of the side not play a professional match since mid-March.

Their astonishing performance also came on the back of more than a month of quarantine in Sydney, Uruguay and Argentina.

Matera would then win the world over a week later as he went viral on social media for gifting away his playing jersey to a young Pumas fan following their 15-15 draw against the Wallabies in Newcastle.

READ MORE

'I STILL WANT TO COACH': Cheika refuses to rule out return to Wallabies

'HE CAME FROM NOWHERE': The Wallaby who surprised Rennie most in 2020

CREATE SPACE: Wallabies great calls for more adventure ahead of Tri Nations finale

He earned plaudits across the globe, including from World Rugby boss Sir Bill Beaumont who said Matera had epitomised rugby's values.

"Fantastic gesture by Pumas captain Pablo Matera in presenting his jersey to a young fan after Saturday's Tri Nations draw #rugbyvalues," Beaumont wrote.

But Tuesday's revelations showed Matera's dark past, which were likely brought to light as retaliation from the Argentinian public for a perceived lack of respect from the team following the death of Diego Maradona last week.

Ledesma said it had been an "emotional rollercoaster" since the controversy and that his side side had "not had a lot of sleep since".

Despite the absence of the star trio, Ledesma has named an experienced side for their final Test of the campaign against the Wallabies with centre Jeronimo de la Fuente taking over the captaincy duties.

WALLABIES (1-15): Scott Sio, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Matt Philip, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (c), Harry Wilson, Nic White, James O'Connor, Marika Koroibete, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Tom Wright, Reece Hodge

Reserves: Folau Fainga'a, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rob Valetini, Jake Gordon, Irae Simone, Tom Banks

PUMAS (1-15): Nahuela Tetaz Chaparro, Julian Montoya, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Matias Alemanno, Marco Kremer, Santiago Grondona, Facundo Isa, Rodrigo Bruni, Felipe Ezcurra, Nicolas Sanchez, Emiliano Boffelli, Jeronimo de la Fuente (c), Matias Orlando, Bautista Delguy, Santiago Carreras

Reserves: Jose Luis Gonzalez, Mayco Vivas, Juan Pablo Zeiss, Lucas Paulos, Francisco Gorrissen, Gonzalo Bertranou, Domingo Miotti, Santiago Chocobares