Rugby | SPORTS

The Secret To Sowakula’s Hot Super Rugby Pacific Form ‘22

Playing for the Flying Fijians at next year’s World Cup is an option for Chiefs No.8
26 Apr 2022 12:30
The Secret To Sowakula’s Hot Super Rugby Pacific Form ‘22
Becoming a dad in the off-season is the secret to Pita Gus Sowakula’s stellar season.

It turns out there is indeed a se­cret to the barnstorming form of Pita Gus Sowakula this year.

After a week off to recharge those rather big batteries, the bullocking No 8 was rested and reignited the Chiefs in their Super Rugby win over Waratahs in Melbourne last Friday night.

Sure, the 1.95m, 110kg power-packed back-rower has been a consistent performer at this level ever since getting his shot out of the blue as an injury replacement with the Chiefs midway through the 2018 campaign.

But this season has been some­thing else. So much so that So­wakula, 27, is being touted as some­one Ian Foster may be wise not to ignore in his All Blacks squad, as physicality, gain-line ability and skill in the national side’s pack comes under the microscope.

New dad

So what’s behind these career-best exploits of Sowakula’s in 2022, then? Lifting more tin in the gym? Doing more sprint work? Try a melting of the big man’s heart in­stead.

“I’ve got a little baby girl, which has provided a little bit of motiva­tion for me,” the softly spoken So­wakula told Stuff.

Lavenia-Rangi, his first child, was born in October last year, coming in prime time for the new season ahead.

“It gets me every game day, and around the off-season with my training and stuff,” he said of his new bundle of joy.

Sowakula described fatherhood as “very special” and said he had simply been determined to make himself better every week so his daughter could “grow up realising that I was playing some of my best rugby”.

And that best footy now has him on the verge of realising an All Blacks dream that started back in 2016 when he moved from Fiji to New Zealand to pursue a career in the sport via the Taranaki acad­emy.

Sowakula hasn’t been given any early contact from the All Blackss coaches, though admits he has caught the chat surrounding the potential of him earning a call-up for July’s home series against Ire­land.

“Yeah, at the moment I haven’t heard anything, just media and people talk about it,” he said. “I’ve never thought that far, but I’m just trying to play my best for Chiefs this season and see what happens.”

Fiji move?

Signed with the franchise till 2023, Sowakula admits next year’s Rugby World Cup is “big motiva­tion”, but then will still look to pursue a test career with Fiji if things don’t fall his way.

“Since I’m playing my best rugby here in New Zealand I’ll just try and maintain that and try and fo­cus here first,” he said. “Then if nothing happens, towards the end of my career, that’s the plan.”

Speaking of Fiji, the date of May 27 is one the Lautoka-born, Siga­toka-raised Sowakula has been eyeing up for some time, when the Chiefs take on the Drua in the final round of the regular season. It’ll be a taste of home, at a yet-to-be-confirmed away venue.

“I’m really looking forward to playing against them,” he said. “It will be special.

“It’s been good to see the Island teams in the Super Rugby comp, because we all know that the devel­opment side of rugby in the Pasifi­ka is, not poor, but still developing. So it’s a good chance for all those young boys back at home to show­case their talent.”

That’s sure what Sowakula has made a habit of doing in his 45 games at this level, and in trying to up his involvement around the paddock this year, he has a simple philosophy despite “just trying to do my job”.

“If nothing’s happening I just try to get my hands on the ball and get the momentum.”

Off the cuff

One thing he most certainly won’t be doing any more, though, is tak­ing that momentum over the top of players on the field, with World Rugby having outlawed hurdling in the wake of Sowakula’s stun­ningly athletic try in the opening-round win over the Highlanders in Queenstown.

It was a piece of play the former basketballer admitted wasn’t even something just off the cuff.

“We played the Highlanders in pre-season the week before, Aaron Smith caught me on the shortside, and (the next week) I’ve seen him there and thought I’d take a quick jump and see how it goes,” he said, recalling he was also nervous after scoring.

“I was kind of celebrating but looking at the ref, too, and seeing what his call was.

“When the rules popped up [to be changed], I was like, oh, I guess I’m never going to do that again

“I was pretty shocked after they did that.”

And gutted? After all, it could have become a trademark move.

“A little bit.”


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