One door shuts, another opens for Sowakula

Missing the All Black selection since the Irish drama in July, Pita Gus Sowakula, Toka Natua and their one-year-old daughter are heading to Clermont, France.

This will be the talented rugby couple’s last summer in New Zealand, heading to France late next year after the NPC and FPC seasons have come to an end.

The last few months have been tough for the family, with Sowakula missing the national election.

“It was pretty tough at times,” admits the 28-year-old. “Plans have been made to go (to France) and we are doing it together.”

Black Fern partner Natua, with 22 Test titles, agrees.

“The opportunity has been presented, so we are here to make the most of it,” he said.

This opportunity for us both to play for the same club was too good to be turned down.

“It’s time for me and my family to leave (New Zealand),” Sowakula said. “I’m just getting older, trying to get more opportunities abroad and make the most of it, I’m moving because of my family.

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“Clubs in Japan and France were bidding and we looked at what would work for all of us. When we learned that (Clermont) was a women’s team, I think I immediately agreed,” she said.

Sowakula has made it clear that although he has a two-year contract with an optional third, he is still available for the Rugby World Cup next year in France.

“The goal is All Blacks, the dream is still there. For now my focus is to get back to the Chiefs this season and play the best rugby I’ve ever played and raise my hand for pick.”

Natua will also raise her hand again. The 2017 Rugby World Cup finalist, who scored an incredible hat-trick in the Black Ferns’ win over England, will make his Super Rugby debut for the Blues at next year’s Super Rugby Aupiki.

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“It’s all about personal growth,” said the 31-year-old. “I really just want to do more, do more and be better, especially after having a baby… I want to show not only my daughter, but my nieces, that you can make your dreams come true no matter what. you just have to work hard.

The Waikato FPC representative is a dual international – he has also represented the Cook Islands in Rugby League, attending this year’s World Cup in England.

The duo, who have been together since Sowakula’s debut with the Chiefs in 2017, had never been to France before.

They are excited to travel as well as experience different styles of rugby.

In particular, Natua was looking forward to reconnecting with former New Zealand player Jono Gibbes, former Waikato NPC coach and head coach of the Clermont men’s team.

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“I know there’s someone to take care of me and my family,” she said.

But one thing was certain, when the day of the journey came, there would be difficult farewells.

Sowakula has made New Zealand his “second home” since leaving Fiji and making the transition from basketball to Taranaki’s rugby academy in 2016.

Natua is strongly connected with Tokoroa, where most of her family resides.

“I am really close to my sisters, to my mother. They already say they don’t want to talk when it’s time to move. If I was contracted alone, I wouldn’t go, I would turn it down, but it’s okay because we did it together,” he said.

With a whole year of rugby ahead of them, there is so much that can happen.

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