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All Black opens up on ‘tough’ decision to leave New Zealand

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Two-Test All Black Pita Gus Sowakula has opened up about his “tough” decision to leave New Zealand Rugby by signing sign for French powerhouse Clermont.


Sowakula, 28, made a try-scoring debut in the famous black jersey during a convincing 42-19 win over Ireland at Eden Park last July.

The Chiefs loose forward was late replacement in the 11-point loss to Andy Farrell’s Irish side a week later in Dunedin, but was left out of the matchday 23 for the third and deciding Test all together.

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Sowakula is still a bit “unsure” about what happened later in the year.

After missing out on the All Blacks’ squad for The Rugby Championship, Sowakula was also overlooked for the All Blacks XV team – a squad which was ultimately a New Zealand ‘B’ team.

The menacing backrower “didn’t get any comms” as to why he missed out on the All Blacks XV, and instead returned to provincial rugby with the Taranaki Bulls.

Later in the year, the Chiefs confirmed that the Fijian-born talent had inked a deal with Clermont in the Top 14.


Sowakula will join the French juggernaut after this year’s NPC campaign with Taranaki, or potentially after the Rugby World Cup if he’s selected for the All Blacks.


But either way, Sowakula has been lost to New Zealand Rugby.

Reflecting on his decision to head overseas to France – a country that he’s never been to – Sowakula said that while it was a “tough” decision to make, it’s the “perfect time” for him to go.

“It was tough, it was tough,” Sowakula told RugbyPass.

“I’ve got a little one as well so I was thinking about her too.

“The perfect time for us to go and pursue the dream while we still have the motivation. It would be easy to go now since we’ve still got the age, the right age to go.

“It’s just the right time for me to go.

“The All Blacks dream is still there for the World Cup or (the Rugby) Championship coming up. My focus for now is just on playing my best rugby for the Chiefs and the All Blacks dream is still there.”


Sowakula has been sensational for the ladder-leading Chiefs this season, and has helped the Hamilton-based franchise secure the minor premiership after an almost perfect regular season campaign.

The All Black has started nine of 13 matches this season, including seven games at blindside flanker. Sowakula has formed a formidable loose forward trio with co-captain Sam Cane and Luke Jacobson.

With one round left in the regular season, and top spot secured, the Chiefs have made 13 changes to their starting side to play the Western Force in Perth this weekend.


The likes of Samisoni Taukei’aho, Brodie Retallick, Brad Weber and Damian McKenzie have been omitted from the matchday 23 completely.

But Sowakula will look to provide some impact off the bench.

“(The Force) they haven’t lost here for five games now so it’s going to be a tough one,” he added.

“The boys are prepared to be here on Saturday night and put our best performance forward in our last round robin (game).

“Try and build that momentum… keep the same level, same energy until next week (for) the quarterfinals at home – it’ll be special, it’ll be a big one too.”

The match between the Force and Chiefs is set to get underway at 8.00pm AWST on Saturday, or midnight on Sunday for those watching on from across the ditch in New Zealand.


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Jon 4 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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