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'None of this is his fault': All Black casualty Pita Gus Sowakula looking outside-in

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

All Black rookie Pita Gus Sowakula missed the cut in the 42-man squad for The Rugby Championship after making his debut in the three-match series against Ireland.


The Chiefs No 8, renown for his strong ball-carrying, featured off the bench in the first two tests seeing limited action as one of the loose forward reserves.

In the first test he dropped his first pass at test level before recovering to score a try on debut with his next touch, breaking off the back of a five metre scrum to power through Irish flyhalf Joey Carbery.

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In the second test the All Blacks lost starting No 8 Ardie Savea in the first half to a red card substitution and Sowakula didn’t enter the game until the 69th minute. His first touch again was another drop, after a wide cutout pass from Richie Mo’unga.

He didn’t feature in the third test as Dalton Papalii returned to the bench and the All Blacks opted to debut Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as an extra back, leaving the Fijian-born loose forward with limited opportunity to push his claims forward.

Sowakula was named the most unluckiest player to miss out on the latest All Blacks squad on Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown by former All Black Jeff Wilson and former Irish international Isaac Boss.

“I feel for Pita Gus Sowakula, this isn’t his fault, none of this is his fault,” Wilson said of his omission.


“What it is for me, is they have looked at the blindside flanker position and they have decided it is Scott Barrett or Shannon Frizell.

“That’s the body we want, that’s the lineout target, the size, the carry, the physical presence we want.

“Great to see Shannon back in there, they said he got through the body of work.”

Sowakula was touted as a No 8 and blindside option, but the return to full fitness of experienced All Black blindside Shannon Frizell seemed irresistible to Ian Foster’s selection committee.


Under pressure ahead of a critical tw0-match stretch in South Africa, Frizell gives the All Blacks a tall jumping option and previous playing experience in South Africa against the Springboks.

“Also pleased to welcome back Shannon Frizell who, again, has a lot of experience, but interruptions the last 18 months, but really feel he’s in a good spot to come back in,” Foster said during the squad announcement press conference.

“Shannon’s just got back through a big training load, you’ll remember that he had 8-9 weeks off at Super level.

“It was really about getting him a lot fitter.”


On the other squad omissions such as Cullen Grace and Brad Weber, Isaac Boss said it was still Sowakula who had the hardest pill to swallow after not really getting an opportunity against Ireland.

“I’d probably say Pita Gus Sowakula,” Isaac Boss said of the unluckiest candidate to miss selection.

“I thought he didn’t really get an opportunity before a chance to be dropped. You got to take that one on chin, the poor bugger.”

On whether he could force his way back into the All Black squad, the 27-year-old will return to Taranaki Bulls where Wilson predicted he would return back to some of his best form.

“We will see him again, I think he is going to tear it up now,” Wilson predicted.

“He will go into the NPC and tear it up, no doubt about it.”


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