Planet Rugby's scouts headed over to Newlands to watch Argentina's openside flank at the Junior World Championship.
Planet Rugby's scouts headed over to Newlands Stadium to watch Argentina's openside flank at the Junior World Championship.
Who is he?
At the tender age of just 18, Pablo Matera – from the Asociacion Alumni club in Buenos Aires – was one of the younger players on show at the U20 global showpiece. He played all five games for Los Pumitas, starting four times and coming off the bench against Scotland.
Argentina stormed through the group stages, winning all three of their games to top Pool C. Our man Matera was influential in the victory over France and scored a try in the dominant display against Australia.
After those results, we thought we'd take a closer look at what the young Matera had to offer.
After Argentina's win over France, one of the travelling French journos reckoned Matera was one of the players to keep an eye on. His recommendation was not surprising considering that the flank stands 1.94m (6'4″) tall and weighs 98kg (216lbs). Not bad for an 18-year-old.
He really looks more like a lock than an openside flank. Indeed, physically he bears no resemblance to a classic 'fetcher' (no Heinrich BrÃ¼ssow look-a-like here!) and we were soon to discover that indeed Argentina were using him as more like a third lock than a scavenger at the rucks.
Unfortunately we chose to watch Matera in the semi-finals against South Africa and the third-place playoff against Wales and in both games Argentina were – surprisingly – convincingly outplayed.
Matera didn't see much of the ball against South Africa, but was regularly used as the front jumper in the line-outs against Wales, winning possession four times with clean takes. He made a good run down the touchline, handing off the first defender with impressive strength. He also intercepted a Baby Bok pass in midfield but his handling let him down in contact.
Not that he didn't should decent ball skills as it was his offload that set Argentina's right wing up for a break from his own 22 that eventually led to their second try against Wales.
His real role, as you would expect considering his size, was as a ball carrier and we counted eight times that he took the ball forward against South Africa – a fair contribution considering his team-mates were generally going backwards.
He never missed a tackle against South Africa but we only counted six tackles made, which was poor. Unlike in the pool stages, the Argentine defence wasn't well organised and Matera was quite often out of position.
However, we did like his efforts at the restarts, where he launched his body through the air like a rogue torpedo, causing all kinds of havoc amongst the awaiting receivers.
Like any teenager, Matera seems very good at not looking interested and, to be honest, we were a little disappointed with how often he was drifting around in the backline or standing out on the wing when you would have expected him to be getting stuck into rucks.
You can't fault his commitment when the ball is near, however, as illustrated by one incident against South Africa. We thought his game was over when he went down with a shoulder injury but when play drift towards the medics trying to treat him, he got up, took a pass out wide and the bolted 10m before bouncing a defender out of the way. He needed another visit from the medical staff afterwards!
“Was a big disappointment to lose (to South Africa), because we wanted to win and we knew we could,”Matera told ESPN Deportes.
“We didn't not play well as seen in the result. For the squad it is an enormous sadness, but we'll take out of it something taught to us by our coach, who is not only a coach of rugby but of life – victories and defeats last just one day. You should never raise your head too high nor drop it.”
Regarding his future, he kept the same level head.
“I'll take it step by step. Obviously every player wants to continue on the circuit with the Jaguars, Pampas and Pumas, but I think that is a very long way away.
“(The best part of the World Championship was) the friends I've made. The people surrounding me were incredible. Not only the 27 players but all the staff, because we formed a large family in all this time together.”
Considering his size and skill at the line-outs, we wouldn't be surprised to see him in Argentina's second row at next year's Junior World Championship in France. He'll have to improve his work rate, but he clearly has some skills. We look forward to checking his progress next year.