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.

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