Taniela Tupou chased after the suspect who grabbed his phone, but his Wallabies teammates shouted at him to back away out of fear that the perpetrator could pull out a gun or knife.
The Wallabies prop was mugged outside the team’s hotel in Johannesburg on Saturday night after returning from a team dinner.
Tupou is said to have initially thought it was one of his teammates, but when he realised he didn’t recognise the person, he gave chase and tried to grab his phone out of the getaway car, and suffered minor cuts to his arm.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the 23-year-old was fortunate that the situation did not escalate after he tried to engage the culprit. Hooker Jordan Uelese, who witnessed the incident, says he is glad they stopped Tupou from chasing the car down the road.
‘He was obviously trying to chase down the car but we obviously told him to backtrack. You never know what they have. It was a matter of safety and we’re always there for each other,’ Uelese said. ‘If he chased that car, you never know what could’ve happened. You can always replace a phone but you can never replace a life.
‘When I looked at it I thought “Whoa, anything could happen here”,’ Uelese added.
‘It just goes to show anything can happen anywhere, so that has definitely brought us closer together as a group and we’re definitely looking out for each other. If they can steal a phone off one of the biggest guys in our team then they can take it off anyone.’
Uelese did say that the incident would not stop the group from walking around in Johannesburg.
‘We’re definitely confident to go out and about as we usually would anywhere else and that definitely doesn’t hinder anything. Crime happens everywhere, not just here. 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.
‘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 are always willing to accommodate you whenever and however they can.’
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