The Wallabies are banding together as Taniela Tupou continues his recovery from a brazen robbery during their preparations for Saturday’s Test match against South Africa in Johannesburg.
Tupou’s mobile phone was snatched by a hooded thief as he walked with his fellow front-rowers back from dinner 50 metres from their hotel.
The prop was left shaken and with some minor cuts on his arm after chasing the robber, who jumped into a waiting vehicle.
Teammate Jordan Uelese, who is gunning to play his first Test minutes in two years against the Springboks at Ellis Park early on Sunday morning (AEST), says while shocked by the incident it had brought the team closer.
“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,” Uelese said.
“If they can steal a phone off one of the biggest guys in our team you can steal off anyone.”
Uelese was thankful Tupou’s injuries weren’t more serious given the high crime rate in the country.
“It’s easy to replace a phone, you can never replace a life so it was a matter of safety and we’re always there for each other so if he chased that car, you never know what could’ve happened,” the 22-year-old Melbourne Rebels hooker said.
Despite being shocked by the robbery, Uelese, who only managed three Super Rugby games this season as he recovered from a knee reconstruction, said he still felt comfortable staying and playing in South Africa.
“We’ve been here a lot of times, they’re great hosts, they’re such nice people and it happens everywhere,” he said.
“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.”
Australia has a dismal win rate of just 24 per cent when playing in South Africa and they haven’t tasted victory at the famed Ellis Park since 1963.
They have a golden chance with the Springboks fielding a weakened team, with many of their stronger players skipping the match to head to New Zealand early to prepare for the All Blacks the following weekend.
The home side has also lost winger Aphiwe Dyantyi, who won the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year Award in 2018, to a hamstring injury.
The Springboks won’t call in a replacement as they have sufficient cover in the camp in Johannesburg.