Sunwolves captain Michael Little has revealed how members of his team were struggling with the shock news of the sudden passing of Blues and North Harbour prop Michael Tamoaieta only hours before they pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Rugby history.

Samoan-born Tamoaieta, who played 10 Super Rugby games for the Blues last year, died suddenly on Friday.

An emotional Little, who joined the Sunwolves from North Harbour last year, said 23-year-old Tamoaieta's death had "hurt players all over New Zealand".

"He kind of came into Harbour the year after I did but all Kiwis kind of know each other so it did hit pretty hard. It's emotional talking about it. He's a good man and he is going to be missed," Little said, moments after the Sunwolves created history by beating the Chiefs 30-15 in Hamilton.

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"We've got a huge Kiwi bunch in the crew so it hit does hit home pretty hard. It's not the news you want to hear the morning of the game. My wife rang me… and broke the news to me. It was a hard couple of hours. It's always on your mind coming into the game and I'm glad we got that performance.

"We (the Sunwolves) talked about it. It's going to hurt players all over NZ."

Michael Tamoaieta died suddenly on Friday. Photo / Getty
Michael Tamoaieta died suddenly on Friday. Photo / Getty

Little also praised the Japanese outfit's effort - in an error-strewn performance by the Chiefs, who have now lost their first three games of the season.

It is the first time since the Sunwolves' inception in 2015 that they had won away from home, breaking a streak of 24 straight losses, and their second Kiwi scalp after decimating the Blues 48-21 in 2017.

"The boys put in a lot of effort and it's a credit to them. We work bloody hard for our small wins and to get the victory in New Zealand... it's probably the hardest place to tour," Little said.

"It's tough coming up against a Chiefs outfit that have been a bit unlucky in the last couple weeks. We knew they were going to bring it physically and we just stepped up. Growth in Japan (rugby) is going pretty strong and we tried to bring that quick, fast rugby and we tried to show that tonight.

"To get the victory here, it's been a long time coming."