Taniel Tupou was mugged in South Africa.
Taniel Tupou was mugged in South Africa.

Wallabies relive moment ‘Thor’ was mugged

Wallabies hooker Jordan Uelese has relived the frightening sliding doors moment on a Johannesburg street when pack mate "Tongan Thor" was robbed of his mobile phone but nothing more permanent.

Youngster Uelese, 22, was in a group of eight burly Wallabies front-rowers, all 115kg-plus, when a hoodie-wearing thief brazenly snatched Taniela Tupou's new iPhone X last Saturday night and made off with it in a speeding car.

Prop Tupou's knee-jerk instincts to chase the robber and thrust a hand through the car window to try to retrieve it left him with minor cuts but, fortunately, nothing more.

 

 

Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou was part of a group of eight front-rowers but even that did not keep him safe. Picture: AAP Image/Rugby Australia
Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou was part of a group of eight front-rowers but even that did not keep him safe. Picture: AAP Image/Rugby Australia

"It all happened after a front-rowers' dinner and we were just walking home to the hotel," said Uelese, who must be favoured to see his first Test minutes in two years against South Africa in Johannesburg early on Sunday morning (AEST).

"Big fellas eat big food. It was just a couple of steaks across the road (from the hotel)," Uelese explained.

"It obviously happened really quick, I didn't really see what happened and just looked around at a car speeding away.

"When I look at it now, we're pretty grateful he's in good shape for this week's Test, he's healthy and nothing happened too badly.

"You can always replace a phone but you can never replace a life.

"We didn't have security with us … when you've got eight 120kg-plus players there, you feel pretty safe being together."

 

 

Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou (left) sustained cuts to his arm when he attempted to retrieve his stolen phone. Picture: (AAP Image/Rugby Australia
Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou (left) sustained cuts to his arm when he attempted to retrieve his stolen phone. Picture: (AAP Image/Rugby Australia

The Wallabies are staying in a five-star hotel in up-market Sandton, were wisely walking as a group and still the raw randomness on the streets of Johannesburg tripped them at 9.15pm at night just 50m from their accommodation.

They are staying in the same hotel as Allan Border's Australian cricketers did on the landmark 1993-94 tour when they employed former heavyweight boxer Pierre Coetzer on their 24-7 security team.

The moustachioed Coetzer fought world champions George Foreman and Riddick Bowe so he could look after himself and made every member of that team feel safer.

Singling out the 132kg Tupou from a group which also included 120kg Allan Alaalatoa and 117kg James Slipper tells you something about the robber's audacity.

Jordan Uelese training with the Wallabies. Picture: Rugby AU Media/Stuart Walmsley
Jordan Uelese training with the Wallabies. Picture: Rugby AU Media/Stuart Walmsley

 

"They're slow too, mate," teammate Christian Lealiifano said with a laugh.

Added Uelese: "I thought 'Whoa, anything can happen here' but it has definitely brought us closer as a group so we look out for each other's back.

"If they can steal a phone off one of the biggest guys in our team you can steal off anyone."

Impressively, Uelese didn't slate Johannesburg or his host country.

"It goes to show anything can happen anywhere and maybe we were too casual walking around and having a laugh. Crime happens everywhere not just here."

"I'm not going to let a little minority of crime makers tarnish our thoughts on people here in South Africa," Uelese said. "They've obviously been really great to us, they're really nice

people. If you walk around the hotel, they always have big smiles and always willing to accommodate you whenever and however they can.

" I think that little theft there happens everywhere in the world and I don't think that should change the way we think about South Africans in general," Uelese said.

"We're definitely confident to go out again and you just have to be more switched on when you do, make the right decisions to not go out alone and be mindful of surroundings."

Tupou admitted he was rattled but unscathed: "I'm ready to go, ready to train. It's crazy … I learnt a lesson. Lucky it was not my wallet."