How an Argentine prop playing 10,000km away ended up taking an SOS to solve Tahs’ crisis


To get an understanding of the injury crisis unfolding at the NSW Waratahs, all you need to do is look at how far their latest recruit has come.

Last week, Enrique Pieretto was finishing up his time with the Warriors in Glasgow.

Now, having arrived in Sydney last Saturday morning after answering an SOS, he’s the Waratahs’ most experienced prop and a walk-up starter for the side’s do-or-die clash against the Western Force in Perth this weekend after Harry Johnson-Holmes’ season-ending Achilles injury over the weekend.

Keen to rip in?

“Yeah, I come here to play,” said Pieretto, the 30-capped Argentine prop.

Enrique Pieretto poses for a portrait ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Japan. (Photo by Rich Fury – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

How he ended up in Sydney five years after wanting to make the move to Australia is a whirlwind story and an extraordinary change of events.

It was at the end of the 2019 Super Rugby campaign, where the Jaguares lost to Scott Robertson’s Crusaders in the final, and a year before the franchise was frozen out of the competition because of Covid-19, when Pieretto first put the feelers out to make the switch to Australia.

But Rugby Australia blocked his move to the Waratahs because the governing body was intent on ensuring its developing talent was slowed by foreigners taking up specialist positions.

“I think the Australian union wanted to develop Australian props,” Pieretto revealed. “I ended up at Exeter.”

Five years later though and the Waratahs, who are now overseen by RA, were permitted to hit the phones in the hope of a late-season recruit.

It ultimately saw Coleman dial Pieretto’s agent and within days the deal was done.

“It was an opportunity to come over,” said Pieretto, who spent his first day in Sydney last weekend eating fish and chips with his new coach at Maroubra.

“Darren called me and explained the situation with the club.

“I spoke with the coaches at Glasgow and they were happy to let me go.

“It’s a big opportunity for me to be here at an amazing club.”

Enrique Pieretto arrived in Sydney on Saturday and is set to take on the Western Force in Perth seven days later. Photo: NSW Media

Pieretto’s arrival could not have been timelier.

Even before Johnson-Holmes’ devastating injury, the Waratahs had lost another when Pieretto was making the 26-hour transit as Hayden Thompson-Stringer suffered a season-ending, grade-three MCL injury last Thursday.

The duo were the final two of seven contracted props left standing before last week.

Even Pone Fa’amausili, who was loaned out from the Rebels to the Waratahs to try and ease the crisis, has been called back after Taniela Tupou suffered a concussion during his side’s 26-22 loss to the Reds.

Talk about unfortunate timing.

It means Coleman will call on the 122kg prop on Saturday to try and get the better of his compatriot and former teammate Santiago Medrano, who has been a mainstay with the Force since arriving in 2021.

“First training today,” Pieretto said. “I’m happy to be here.”

Pieretto, whose wife and infant arrive on Wednesday, is keen to ensure it’s not a short stay either, with the 2019 World Cup member, who featured against the Wallabies in 2022, intent on picking up a new long-term deal.

“It’d be massive,” he said in response to being asked if he wanted to stay.

It’s believed former Brumbies prop Harry Lloyd has also been called in from club rugby in Brisbane, too.

Jack Barrett, who made his debut against the Rebels and was named in the under-20s Rugby Championship team of the tournament, was also back at Daceyville on Tuesday afternoon too.

Teammate Joey Walton, who said he was “heartbroken to see Johnson-Holmes go down, said the side’s spirits weren’t broken and the morale had been kept high by the new faces on hand.

“Morale is good,” he said.

“It’s frustrating and upsetting when you lose but at the end of the day we still get to come in and play footy every day, so it puts a smile on our face.

“Another thing for morale is that we get a new guy come in every single day. Meeting someone knew, getting them across the play book, you don’t really have any time to sit there and complain.”

Walton said it was “weird” the Waratahs were mathematically still a chance of making scrapping into the finals but added that he was excited to go up against some old teammates when they take on the ninth-placed Force on Saturday evening.

“When you grow up you always play against mates from around the corner and I think you want to beat your mates more than randoms,” he said.

“Everything’s been on the line for the last little bit. I’m excited for some good conditions. Hopefully we’ll be humming.”

Ben Donaldson will run out for his 50th Super Rugby match when he takes on his former side, the Waratahs, in Perth on Saturday. (Photo by Janelle St Pierre/Getty Images)

One of those players is Ben Donaldson, who will play his 50th Super Rugby match when he takes on his former side.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game this week,” said the Wallabies incumbent No.10, who scored 23 points in his side’s 48-10 thrashing of the Drua last weekend in front of Joe Schmidt.

“The Tahs have had a tough run this year, they’ve had a lot of injuries and a few new boys who would be keen for a crack.

“I know a lot of the boys, I know the coaching staff, I know what they can produce. It’s exciting coming up against them, but at the same time I know what they’re capable of, so we’re going to have to be on this weekend.”

The Force, who trail the eighth-placed Drua by two points, likely have to win at least two of their final three matches to scrape into the finals.

“These are the games you want to be a part of and want to play in,” he said.

“It’s almost like a grand final every week for us. If you don’t show up, you’re not making the finals.”

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