"Crime happens everywhere": Uelese says Tupou theft won't change view of South Africa

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies hooker Jordan Uelese says the theft of Taniela Tupou’s phone won’t change the way the team views South Africa.

Tupou had his phone snatched just outside the team’s hotel on Saturday night, at around 9:15pm local time and was left with some minor cuts on his arm after chasing the robber, who jumped into a waiting vehicle.

The incident happened on the way back from a front rowers dinner at the nearby Grill House, just a three-minute walk from their team hotel, and Uelese said everything happened so quickly it was hard to know exactly what happened.

  TUPOU ROBBED NEAR TEAM HOTEL IN JOHANNESBURG

“Honestly, I couldn't tell you. It obviously happened so quick, walking across the road, look back and a car’s speeding off,” he said.

“So it was more of a case of he was obviously trying to chase down the car but we obviously told him to backtrack, you never know what they have.

“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.”

Despite the shock of the theft, Uelese said it wouldn’t change his perception South Africa and its people.

“We've been here a lot of times, they're great hosts, they're such nice people and it happens everywhere,” he said.


“Crime happens everywhere, I'm not going to let a little minority of crime-makers tarnish our thoughts on people here in South Africa. 

“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 happens everywhere in the world and I don't think that should change the way we think about South Africans in general - they're great people and I think we'll continue to think of them that way.”

Asked whether he felt the incident would make him think twice about going out and about in Johannesburg, Uelese said he simply felt they had to be aware of the risks around the city.

“When you’ve got eight 120-plus kilo players you’re pretty good. We feel pretty safe being together there,” he said.

Taniela Tupou has been in good spirits around Wallabies camp. Photo: RUGBY.com.au“Things happen and unfortunately we were probably too casual and having a laugh and that is the last thing you expect for someone to come and snatch a phone.  

“It’s all about where you’re going and being mindful of the place you’re in and the surroundings and definitely not going around by yourself.”

Uelese said ultimately they were just glad everyone was safe in the wake of the robbery.

“When I looked at it I thought, ‘Woah, anything could happen here’,” he said.

“In saying that our security team is pretty awesome, they have been looking after us really well. 

“It just goes to show anything can happen anywhere so that has definitely brought us closer together as a group and definitely looking out for each other’s backs. 

“If they can steal a phone off one of the biggest guys in our team then they take it off anyone.”

Taniela Tupou was attacked in Johannesburg. Photo: RUGBY.com.auUelese could see the somewhat humorous side of the incident, which came just a week after Tupou had bought himself a brand new iPhone in Brisbane.

"I was actually joking with him after, I was actually there when he bought his new phone in Brissie and I was there when he lost it again, so that was pretty funny," he said.

"He's a guy who loves to play on his phone but it was probably good for him to have a break from it anyway so good.

The Wallabies take on South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday July 20 kicking off at 5:05pm local, Sunday 1:05am AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Kayo Sports.