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Pita Gus Sowakula

Fi­jian Pita Gus Sowakula might be play­ing in a los­ing team, but the 25-year-old Chiefs No.8 is stamp­ing his mark on Su­per Rugby and has his eyes on an All Blacks prize.

Sowakula made him­self un­avail­able for Fiji at last year’s World Cup sig­nalling his in­ten­tions to seek All Black se­lec­tion.

“If New Zealand (All Blacks) of­fers me a spot then I would prob­a­bly take that, for the de­vel­op­ment of my game and to help set up and look af­ter my fam­ily. But if that

doesn’t hap­pen then I’d love to play for Fiji one day,”Sowakula told RNZ Pa­cific.

The Chiefs are win­less in seven games and will need a big per­for­mance if they’re to beat the Hurricanes in Welling­ton on Satur­day night.

Fiji born and raised Sowakula came into rugby less di­rectly than many of his peers, and he was in New Zealand chas­ing an­other sport­ing dream long be­fore he be­came a Chief.

Sowakula has made the back of the Chiefs scrum his own, show­ing off his prow­ess against the Cru­saders in Hamil­ton last week­end, and as­sis­tant coach Neil Barnes is ex­cited about his prospects.

“He’s got a very good ball carry which you’d ex­pect from a lot of Fi­jians but he has a point of dif­fer­ence in the fact he’s such a big de­fender. He has a mas­sive en­gine and works hard and de­fends go­ing for­ward and back. If any­one makes line breaks he’s one player that works re­ally hard to get back. It’s his abil­ity to keep run­ning and de­fend all game long that makes him stand out.”

How­ever, it was on the bas­ket­ball court, rather than the rugby field, where Sowakula got his first big break.

He was picked in the Fiji na­tional team as a teenager and ended up play­ing for Otago in 2014.

At six foot five and 110 kilo­grammes, it’s not sur­pris­ing he’s good at bas­ket­ball, but it’s not just Sowakula’s phys­i­cal size that Chiefs first-five Aaron Cru­den cov­ets. “Oh you’ve got to love a good mous­tache don’t ya. Be­ing a guy who can’t re­ally grow fa­cial hair that well, you look at a guy like that with a lit­tle bit of jeal­ousy, a lit­tle bit of envy in your eyes.”

Sowakula would later be se­lected in the Fiji rugby sev­ens squad, but opted to chase his hoops dreams in­stead, win­ning sil­ver with the Fiji bas­ket­ball team at the 2015 Pa­cific Games.

“I was in both the bas­ket­ball and sev­ens squad that year, but I chose bas­ket­ball and it was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to win a medal and I got a schol­ar­ship out of it, which I was sup­posed to go to.”

That schol­ar­ship was at Iowa Cen­tral Com­mu­nity Col­lege, but it fell through at the last minute.

That’s when Sowakula de­cided to fo­cus on rugby and he ended up at the Taranaki academy in 2016, where he was moved out of the for­wards and on to the wing.

“It was pretty tough at times be­cause the wings of­ten just stand on the side wait­ing for the ball. I love run­ning and love con­tact so I missed the for­wards. The weather was a real chal­lenge for me too, my first time play­ing rugby in the cold,” he said.

Sowakula wasn’t left freez­ing out wide for long and was soon back among the loosies, where he’s been im­press­ing with the Chiefs.

If he con­tin­ues to be a shin­ing light in a tough sea­son for the Chiefs, his in­ter­na­tional de­but might come sooner rather than later. - RNZ Pa­cific

Fi­jian born Chiefs No.8 Pita Gus Sowakula

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