Fijian forward poised for Chiefs debut

Author
NZN,
Section
Rugby,
Publish Date
Thursday, 29 March 2018, 8:54AM
Taranaki flanker Pita Gus Sowakula will make his debut for the Chiefs, as a flanker this weekend. (Photo \ Getty Images)

A former Fijian basketball player who began his rugby on the wing is the latest solution to the Chiefs' locking crisis.

Flanker Pita Gus Sowakula is on the bench for Friday's Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Hamilton and will make his debut in the competition if used.

He will cover locks Brodie Retallick and Tyler Ardron, who are the only specialist locks standing after a groin strain ruled out Michael Allardice.

Dominic Bird, Mitchell Brown and Fin Hoeata have all succumbed to season-ending injuries, thrusting the likes of Sowakula under an unexpected spotlight.

However Chiefs assistant coach Neil Barnes is backing 23-year-old Sowakula, who arrived in Taranaki 18 months ago from Fiji, to rise to the occasion.

"Gus gives you with that flexibility he provides a lot of ex factor but can also put the work rate in too."
Sowakula took time to settle in the Taranaki academy but last year produced some stand-out displays at NPC level.

Elsewhere, Charlie Ngatai could make his first appearance since round one after injuring his leg against the Crusaders but Barnes wasn't prepared to rush his co-captain back.

"He will find his feet with a little bit of time out there, and hopefully work his way into a starting position," he said.

"If you look at (second five-eighth) Johnny Faauli he's done a great job so it's unfair to ignore the form he's showing us, and put another guy in coming off an injury. If Charlie wants it he's going have to earn it."

Barnes is also praising co-captain All Blacks flanker Sam Cane, as he prepares to bring up his 100th Super Rugby game.

"When you look at Sam's game as far as his ability to play, the physicality he brings, his leadership and the man himself.

"I don't find to many that have got that package across the board, he's a champion and I have a massive amount of respect for him."

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