At home with Survivor’s Rob Bentele
He’s sharp and he’s hunky but Rob Bentele finds all the attention his looks have been getting on Survivor quite odd
THERE’S just something about him. Maybe it’s his intense blue eyes or perhaps it’s his chiselled body. But whatever it is, KwaZulu- Natal hunk Rob Bentele sure has fans of Survivor South Africa: Island of Secrets glued to their screens.
For some he’s the new Wentworth Miller, who played brooding Michael Scofield in the TV series Prison Break, but others insist he looks more like Grey’s Anatomy hottie Jesse Williams (Dr Jackson Avery).
The 29-year-old TV star seems bemused by all the attention he’s receiving.
“I actually get very shy,” he says with a laugh. “For me these eyes are normal, I’ve always had them. I honestly don’t see anything special. This is the face I wake up to every morning and look at in the mirror. I didn’t realise it would be such a thing.”
Dressed casually in a plain T-shirt and pants, he’s just as charming as we chat via video call from his home in Richard’s Bay as he is on TV. In addition to turning out to be one of the show’s alpha males, Rob has been saved from being a target at Tribal Council until now by his ability to play a strategic and clever psychological game.
He says the years he spent working as a financial planner honed his ability to form strong relationships quickly and that put him at an advantage in Samoa.
“I can get along with pretty much anybody and that helps a lot in the game of Survivor,” says Rob, who now runs his own video production company.
“I’m also fairly good at reading a situation so I can align myself with different people.”
HE SEEMS made for taking part in Survivor but Rob nearly missed the cutoff date for entries. “I actually entered on the deadline day,” he recalls. “I think I sent my audition in just before it closed. Something just told me to do this. I just had a feeling that this was something I had to do.”
It’s not surprising he stood out. Rob has experience as a bodybuilder and mixed martial arts ( MMA) fighter and has bungee jumped and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
When he heard he’d been selected for the show he made sure to do plenty of
extra cardio, endurance and resistance training at the gym, even though he was already in great shape.
He also started preparing for the mental and emotional aspects of the game.
“I did a lot of meditation,” he says. “I’m very much into spirituality.”
However his biggest inspiration going into the game were his parents, Josi (51) and Herbert (60), who told him just to be himself in Samoa.
Josi, who’s Zulu and works as a wedding planner, and Herbert, a cabinetmaker from Austria, were married in 1987 at a time when their relationship, although legal, was considered wrong in apartheid South Africa.
He says the biggest lesson they taught him and his three siblings was always to be true to themselves.
From the get-go in the game he clicked with Cape Town media producer Nathan Castle (25) and they quickly formed a TV bromance, which was cut short when Nate was voted out just before the merge.
“A lot of people wondered whether we knew each other before coming on the show because we were so close. Him leaving was a shock because he was the person I’d invested in from day one in this game. I’d put a lot of my energy and eggs into that Nate basket and it just dropped,” he says.
“He was that one person I could rely on above everyone and the one person I knew would never lie to me because we’d built a bond that was so strong. We have a lot of things in common and I saw a lot of myself in Nate.”
At this stage of the game his biggest threat is Danté de Villiers (31), a coffee shop owner form Dwarskersbos on the Cape West Coast.
“Danté is a very physical guy,” he says.
WHILE South Africans eagerly wait to find out how things pan out, Rob is happy to be back in South Africa, reunited with his family and the comforts of home.
“I love nyama [meat] and I really missed it. Give me meat and I’m happy.”
He says competing in the game was tougher than he’d expected.
“You’re missing your family and trying to stay positive when everything is breaking around you but, for me, hunger was the toughest thing,” he says.
“There are two things in life that mean a lot and that’s nutrition and love. In this game you learn to appreciate those things the most. It puts everything into perspective,” he tells us.
Every Thursday he watches Survivor and as the action plays out he’s proud of how he’s played thus far and there’s nothing he wishes he’d done differently.
He says it never occurred to him that taking part in the game would turn him into a celebrity, although it doesn’t seem as if there’s any risk of his newfound fame going to his head. He still sees himself as an ordinary guy from a small town.
Rob says he’s generally at his happiest when he’s doing outdoor activities such as camping with his father or bungee jumping off bridges.
“I also like my alone time, watching movies or just being at home. You definitely won’t find me out in a club,” he says.
It will be music to many ears that he’s single but if you’re hoping to catch his eye, a love for the outdoors is essential – as is an appreciation for Disney movies.
“I’m a massive Disney fan,” he says, before bursting into song with a hearty rendition of the Moana theme song How Far I’ll Go.
His singing is actually pretty good. Perhaps when Survivor is over he should audition for The Voice South Africa.
LEFT: Rob during a challenge for his former Ta’alo tribe. ABOVE: He had a short-lived bromance with Nathan Castle. RIGHT: Rob formed an alliance with Nathan and Nicole Capper from his initial Sa’ula tribe.
RIGHT: One of the things Rob missed most while filming Survivor South Africa: Island of Secrets in Samoa was his closeknit family. Here, from left, are Rob, elder sister Robin, mom Josi, dad Herbert and younger brothers Alex and Lucky.