One door shuts, another opens for Sowakula

Missing out on All Black selection since the Ireland series in July, Pita Gus Sowakula, Toka Natua and their one-year-old daughter are off to Clermont, France.

This will be the talented rugby couple’s last summer in New Zealand, leaving for France late next year, after the conclusion of the NPC and FPC seasons.

The past few months have been hard for the family, with Sowakula missing out on national selection.

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

His 22 Test capped Black Fern partner, Natua, agrees.

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

That opportunity - for both of us to play at the same club - was too good to turn down.

“It’s the right time for me and my family to move on from (New Zealand),” Sowakula said. “It’s just age too, trying to get more opportunities abroad and make the most of it, I’m moving because of my family.

“Clubs in Japan and France were offering, and we looked at what would work for all of us.Once we found out (Clermont) had a women’s team, I think I took it straight away,” he said.

Despite the contract being for two years with an optional third year, Sowakula is making it clear he’s still available for next year's Rugby World Cup in France.

“The All Blacks is the goal, the dream is still there. My focus for now is just to get back into the Chiefs this season, and play the best rugby I’ve ever played and put my hand up for selection.”

Natua will also be putting her hand back up. The 2017 Rugby World Cup finalist, who scored an incredible hat trick in the Black Ferns win against England, will make her Super Rugby debut for the Blues in Super Rugby Aupiki next year.

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

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

The pair, who’ve been together since Sowakula’s first year with the Chiefs in 2017, have never been to France before.

They are excited to experience the different style of rugby, as well as travel.

Natua in particular was looking forward to linking back up with former Waikato NPC coach and former New Zealand player, Jono Gibbes, who is head coach of the men’s team at Clermont.