We knew him as the Goliath to Zavion’s Adonis, a physical force to be reckoned with, who certainly wasn’t shy about singing his own praises – loudly.
But for all his bravado about how “it’s pretty amazing being me” (over other tribe members repeatedly approaching him to be part of their alliances) Solly Mathiba failed to spot the arrows aimed at him.
A classic case of overconfidence, perhaps?
“Look, hindsight is a beautiful thing,” he says. “I really should have been more aggressive with the social game instead of being so laid back about it. But there was a pecking order in place and I wasn’t part of it (in terms of who they would vote off first) so I honestly believed they would vote for Shane, because he was the biggest threat.”
During his to-camera comments subsequent to his ousting, the sports manager referred to himself as “naïve” and attributed his downfall to “having trusted people I shouldn’t have trusted”.
Although a notion of this nature is hardly a revelation in the snake pit that is the game of Survivor, it was surprising to learn it was not the likes of the aloof Altaaf or shifty Shane by whom Solly felt the most betrayed by but rather, good-guy-gone-bad, Graham.
As Solly explains: “He and I spoke before tribal council and we had a gentlemen’s agreement, if you will, that we would get Shane off.
I suppose I was also so desperate to hold onto my alliance with Buhle and Vel that I didn’t even see Graham’s game plan. You think you know people, but on Survivor, you don’t really know anyone…”
That he follows this with a tongue-in-cheek aside as to how “a trip to my sangoma before going to the island might have shed more light on the matter” proves his point.
On screen, Solly was the quintessential “brawny bloke” who displayed a distinct lack of interest (often bordering on smugness) in his fellow contenders, and who could seemingly scare them into submission with a simple glance at his ferocious face. And while he acknowledges that “let’s put it this way: I’m a good boy at my parents’ house, but I can be a bit arrogant to the outside world”, it just so happens this soaring tower of muscle mass is actually quite an amiable chap, gosh darn it!
I guess being endlessly sleep-deprived, starved, and in a perpetual zombie-like state while having to make nice with an assembly of strangers on a remote island wouldn’t exactly see us showing our most congenial side either.
“That’s it,” laughs the big man.
“I tell you, nothing prepared me for how energy-less you feel or how low your mood gets because you’re being deprived of all these things.
“I found myself thinking, this must be what it’s like for old people who can’t take care of themselves any more. Even getting up to fetch water was an effort. You feel so helpless.”
And after all that, rather than head straight to the comfort of his own home and the little luxuries it offers like, oh, a clean-water shower, Solly is now forced to endure further weeks on the island as the second member of the jury. This observation elicits another cynical chuckle from Sunny Solly’s corner, who concedes, “Ja, it’s not a good feeling. I didn’t pack many clothes when I went to the island, because I thought, either I’ll be voted off early, or I’ll win the thing.
“So it’s hard to be in this zone now where you know you were so close, but you have to sit back and watch other people play. I would rather be in the hot seat.”
Well, for a cool one million rand at the end of this rainbow, wouldn’t we all?
• Survivor SA: Champions, Sunday on M-Net at 5.30pm.