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Pumas given warm Hamilton welcome

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 8/09/2016 Angelo Risso

The city of Hamilton has put on its very own fiesta for the Argentinian Pumas before Saturday's Rugby Championship match with the All Blacks.

Pumas players arrived in the Waikato city on Thursday afternoon to a civic reception in the town centre, including a traditional Maori welcome and an Argentinian barbeque.

Students from the local Forest Lake School in Hamilton also performed traditional music for the world's seventh-ranked side.

Several Argentinian fans donned the blue and white to cheer their team into the city, as players stopped for selfies and autographs.

Blindside flanker Pablo Matera said the welcome was appreciated by the squad.

"They always treat us very well in New Zealand and we're happy to be here," Matera said.

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said the rugby-mad Waikato region was ecstatic to host a Rugby Championship match.

The game brings commercial activity to the city, which has a population of 140,000, but also gives local residents the chance to let their hair down.

"This is rugby heartland and everyone just gets on board," Ms Hardaker said.

"It's an enormous value economically but also just as a community, because people love sport here and can have a great time."

The match on Saturday is expected to be a sellout.

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