The Crusaders have added international experience to their playing roster, signing Argentina loose forward Pablo Matera for the 2022 Super Rugby season.
Argentina captain Matera, 27, has played 62 tests for Los Pumas, as well as being a standout for the Jaguares in previous iterations of Super Rugby.
Matera was captain of Argentina for their famous 25-15 victory over the All Blacks during last year's Tri Nations in Australia.
The versatile back rower will compete with current Crusaders Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie, Whetukamokamo Douglas and Sione Havili for a spot in the reigning Super Rugby champions' side.
"Pablo is one of the premier loose forwards in World Rugby," Crusaders coach Scott Robertson says.
"He's a skilful and tenacious player with genuine leadership qualities, who has impressed us with his physicality and work ethic.
"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."
He was reported as being close to signing with the Crusaders from Top 14 side Stade Francais, but it is yet to be seen as to whether Matera will remain contracted to the French club.
"We are still working through the finer detail of this with Pablo and his agent," Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge says.
"But we look forward to welcoming him into our environment once that is complete."
Matera could be seen as a controversial signing for the Crusaders though.
In 2020, he was temporarily stripped of the Argentina captaincy, and was stood down alongside teammates Guido Petti and Santiago Socino after posting "discriminatory and xenophobic comments," dating back as far as 2011.
He was later re-instated as Los Pumas' captain though.
Matera apologised for the old posts, and cancelled his Twitter account.
"I had a tougher time," he wrote at the time. "I am very ashamed.
"Apologies to all those who were offended by the atrocities I wrote. At that moment, I did not imagine who I was going to become."
Mansbridge though says that the Crusaders are confident in Matera's character, having accepted and moved on from his mistakes.
"We've drawn the conclusion that Pablo made an error of judgement.
"We don't condone the behaviour in any way, shape or form. But we don't think it's reflective of his whole character.
"We think he's remorseful - both then and now. He's been accountable, he's faced the consequences and made a real attempt to make ammends.
"We're confident, after the research we've done, that Pablo overall is a good person."
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