Absent from the All Black selection since the Irish series in July, Pita Gus Sowakula, Toka Natua and their one-year-old daughter left for Clermont, France.
This will be the talented rugby couple’s last summer in New Zealand, leaving for France at the end of next year after the conclusion of the NPC and FPC seasons.
The past few months have been difficult for the family, with Sowakula missing out on the national team.
“It was quite difficult at times,” admits the 28-year-old. “Plans have been put in place to go (to France), and we are doing it together.”
His 22 test partner, Black Fern, Natua, agrees.
“The opportunity has presented itself, so we’re here to make the most of it,” she said.
This opportunity – for both of us to play for the same club – was too good to pass up.
“It’s a good time for me and my family to leave (New Zealand),” Sowakula said. “It’s just the age too, I’m trying to get more opportunities abroad and make the most of them, I’m moving because of my family.
“Clubs in Japan and France were offering, and we looked for what would work for all of us. Once we found out (Clermont) had a women’s team, I think I took it straight away,” said- he declared.
Although the contract is for two years with an optional third year, Sowakula is making it clear that he is still available for next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.
“The All Blacks is the goal, the dream is still there. My goal right now is just to get back to the Chiefs this season, play the best rugby I’ve ever played and get my hands up for selection.
Natua will also put her hand up again. The 2017 Rugby World Cup runner-up, who scored an incredible hat-trick in the Black Ferns’ win over England, will make his Super Rugby debut for the Blues in Super Rugby Aupiki next year.
“It’s about personal growth,” said the 31-year-old. “I really want to be more, do more and be better, especially after having a baby… I want to show not only my daughter, but also my nieces and nephews, that you can always achieve your dreams no matter what. happens, you just have to work hard.
The Waikato FPC representative is a double international – she also represented the Cook Islands in Rugby League, taking part in the World Cup in England this year.
The couple, who have been together since Sowakula’s first year with the Chiefs in 2017, have never been to France before.
They are delighted to discover the different styles of rugby, as well as to travel.
Natua in particular was eager to reconnect with former Waikato NPC coach and former New Zealand player Jono Gibbes, who is the head coach of the Clermont men’s team.
“I know he’s a person who will take care of me and my family,” she said.
One thing was certain though, when the day of departure arrives, there will be some tough goodbyes.
Sowakula has made New Zealand his “second home”, since leaving Fiji and quitting basketball in 2016 for a place at Taranaki’s rugby academy.
Natua has strong ties to Tokoroa, where most of her family resides.
“I am very close to my sisters, to my mother. They already say they don’t want to talk when it comes time to move. I wouldn’t go if I had only been hired by myself, I would have refused, but because we’re doing it together it will work,” she said.
With a full year of rugby ahead of them, there’s a lot that could happen.
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