TWO days before the winner of Survivor is announced on Sunday, former Springbok skipper Corné Krige has told how he survived Survivor.
“It was extremely tough – tough for me, tough for my family. Just plain tough,” Krige said.
The series was filmed over 28 days last October.
“We flew to Singapore, then drove for five hours or so into Malaysia, then had a 45-minute boat ride until we reached the island of Pulau Besar.”
For the Survivor contestants and captains, Krige and former Bafana Bafana defender Mark Fish, it was island life at its most brutal, as authentic as real shipwrecked sailors would have had to endure.
And for any cynics who might believe the “toughness” was contrived for the camera, Krige was adamant: “Let me tell you: it was entirely authentic. Nothing was staged.”
The toughest aspect?
“By far the lack of food, the hunger. Some people are sceptical, and think they give you food off-camera. But they aren’t even allowed to talk to you – they were very strict about maintaining our isolation.
“We won rice on Day One, so that lasted us for 14 days.
“We decided to have one decent meal a day. So we’d eat a handful of coconut in the morning, have nothing all day, and then one handful of rice just before sunset.
“Sometimes we were able to catch fish or oysters, and then mixed them with the rice.”
Their tools were rudimentary, at best. “You’d have to bash the oysters off the rocks, eat with shells or half-coconut shells, stir the wok with a stick. If you don’t improvise you don’t eat.”
When playing rugby for South Africa and the Stormers, Krige weighed just shy of 100kg, thanks to relentless muscle-building in the gym. When he retired, and took up mountain biking and running, his weight plummeted to a super-lean 89kg.
And after 18 days on “the island” he lost another 6kg, leaving him “skin and bones”.
The second-toughest aspect was time away from his family – his wife, Justine, and their three children, Sophia, 9, John, 7 and Peter, 5.
“It was tough on them. For the first 18 days I couldn’t talk to them at all. That was extremely tough for all of us.”
Running his outdoor advertising company, Krige is regularly away on business. “But I’m used to talking to them once a day.”
He admitted: “Yes, there were times when I asked myself: ‘Why the hell did I do this?’ But it gave me time for introspection, time to work out what’s important in life.”
Chief among his new perspectives was an appreciation of basic needs, which so many South Africans suffer without. “Everybody I know grew up quite privileged – being able to go to the fridge and there’s something there.
“You simply can’t imagine what it’s like, unless you’ve been there, to be hungry for long periods of time. To be nauseous, light-headed, to feel like fainting every time you get up.
“For 18 days, until Mark and I left the island, we had no toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper.
“Jeepers we were dirty. No soap. Your hair becomes wiry. Everyone said how amazing our hair was looking, because you just pulled it into place and it stayed there – because it was so filthy. I washed myself in the sea every day, but then you remained covered with the salt…”
A third deprivation was exercise. For a famously fit rugby professional, this was tough too.
“But we had no food, you see, so no energy, so you didn’t even feel like training. We’d spend our days just lazing around, trying to conserve energy for something worthwhile – like fishing or chopping wood. When you have limited energy you have to use it extremely carefully.
“Moira (one of his team members) fainted at one of the challenges, when we had to winch people in from the ocean. She fainted twice – which shows how tough it really was.”
After 18 days on the island, Krige was “emotionally drained, from lack of sleep, lack of food, and the constant barrage of backstabbing, cheating and conniving… it weighs you down”.
Krige and Fish spent the remaining 10 days on a neighbouring island, before returning home.
How had the experience compared with his toughest times as a Bok?
“With Survivor, the thing that’s different is that you don’t have the basics – your bed, food, basic things that human beings need.
“Then there’s the individual nature of the competition. I’ve led teams my whole life. In every team everyone’s got a similar goal – they want to be successful or win a trophy. You just have to channel that energy into a win.
“But with Survivor, even when we were in our two teams, you had individuals with their own ideas, prepared to backstab each other to get there. It was very different to what I’m used to. Having said that, I had amazing tribe members and I have remained friends with most of them.”
At the time of our interview, the votes had been counted, but neither Krige nor any of the contestants had any idea who had won.
FACING THE JURY
Cape Town has a 66.6 percent chance of winning this season’s Survivor SA – and will know in 48 hours.
The M-Net show reaches its finale on Sunday evening, when Sivu, Buhle and Graham face the jury at their final tribal council.
The votes were cast while the Survivors were on the Malaysian island in October, and will be made public during a live broadcast from Joburg.
Of the trio of possible “Ultimate Survivors” who will win R1 million, two are Capetonians.
• Graham Jenneker, 29, is a financial manager from Green Point, and is described as “a charming, ambitious all-rounder and analytical thinker who is as comfortable behind books as he is on the sports field”.
“Newly promoted at a major bank, Graham has two degrees and is studying towards a third,” his biography reads.
“All moms would love to have him as a son-in-law, but he’s taken – by his girlfriend of 10 years.”
• Second from the Mother City is Sivu Xabanisa, 24, a third-year astrophysics student at UCT. Born in Khayelitsha, he’s the show’s “nerd”, believing that education is the key to everything.
• The third finalist is Buhle Madlala, 35, an events organiser from Northcliff, Joburg, who has a social sciences degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
- Cape Argus