Survivor South Africa: Return of the Outcasts, the franchise’s ninth season, is hitting screens this month. If you haven’t checked out Survivor SA, firstly, I’ll pose the requisite “how dare you?” and, secondly, here’s a refresher on why you should care.
This season is the franchise’s first cast comprised of returnees, with the group made up of former players who haven’t won or made it to the final tribal council, as delineated into tribes of pre-merge (Yontau) or post-merge (Masu) boots.
It’s a first-ever global theme that superfans have long been hoping for, which is indicative of the South African franchise – the show is made by superfans with a deep love and reverence for the format. If you’re looking for old-school structures with modern twists and always excellent casting, SA is for you!
The cast largely takes from the reboot of Seasons 6 to 8 and the classic favourite season 5, with only one player going as far back as season 4. If you’ve missed any of that you’ve forgone a myriad of blindsides, iconic moments and, at times, pure anarchy, and also not met some of the players we’re about to see again. In the chronological order in which they played and placed, allow us to introduce you.
Ten pre-mergers are back to relive their dream and fulfil the previously unticked parts of their Survivor bucket list. While many of these players established chaos and conflict in their first games, most are reticent to play too hard and go right back home again. We expect a social, dare we say, calm tribe of former flameouts.
Killarney Jones, 51, 18th place, Survivor South Africa: Champions
Killarney was the season’s third boot and first out of her tribe. Her experience was marred by conflict, and her scheming in response to this disagreement helped put a spotlight on her that saw her voting alone and out of the tribe. Having experienced recent tragic losses due to COVID, Killarney is returning with her trademark physicality (she’s a martial artist) and inspiring perseverance for a second shot at the title.
Shona MacDonald, 33, 16th place, Survivor South Africa: Champions
Shona experienced a rollercoaster in her nine days on the island. Initially deemed as weak by leading tribemates and the tribe captain, she was accepted into the Rugrats alliance of outsiders that rose up to control the game. It was her relationship with wildcard David, including the knowledge of a secret idol he possessed, which spelled her demise.
She attempted to steal it (a legal rule in this season), he publicly confronted her, and his underwear was a larger part of this storyline than you’d think. This flagged her as untrustworthy to her allies and she was sent home but, eight years on and now a successful entrepreneur, she’s eyeing redemption.
Philip Dickson, 40, 15th Place, Survivor South Africa: Champions
Shona’s blunder gifted Phillip another round on the island. He had been in the initial power group, which was toppled by the Rugrats, and spent the rest of the pre-merge trying to gain traction and safety as an underdog. Renowned for his villainous confessionals, Philip is otherwise best remembered for stealing sugar cane (thievery was clearly a big theme of this season and Survivor SA at large), a legacy that impacted the season and his co-conspirator long after he was gone. This fun villainy should be very much intact almost a decade later.
Seamus Holmes, 29, 18th Place, Survivor South Africa: Philippines
Seamus is this season’s only first boot, but a memorable one at that. Catapulting onto the island as a superfan wanting to play hard, Seamus flipped on early bonds and demarcated two of the most separate early-game factions the game has ever seen, losing the vote 5-4 as an instigator of two warring groups who would go to rocks just three days later. He’s hoping to pare down this tone-setting intensity on his second run.
Tevin Naidu, 28, 12th Place, Survivor South Africa: Philippines
Both a student of the game and of medicine, Tevin was a clear strategic and intellectual threat, running the game through two tribes until he was emotionally betrayed by his two closest allies – PK and Toni (remember those names) – at a second swap, in one of the game’s most brutal and inexplicable blindsides ever. Despite the trio’s reconnection and even matching tattoos, Tevin will have to navigate both his innate threat level and probably those complex friendships to have success on a second try.
Felix Godlo, 32, 17th Place, Survivor South Africa: Island of Secrets
Felix spent much of the game in the majority of an original tribe that has four members back for this season. A physical asset with a rugby background, Felix had strong relationships with other eventual Season 9 returnees (Meryl and Danté) but clashed with others, mostly Tania, whom he tentatively tried to work with after a swap but whose new Band of Misfits took him out. Publicly communicating with his old tribemates at challenges and generating conflict, Felix will be coming into his second stint with a softer approach, by his own admission.
Tania Copeland, 53, 16th Place, Survivor South Africa: Island of Secrets
Tania’s trajectory naturally opposed Felix’s. A larger-than-life character with “bank robber” and “marijuana” pretty large on her word cloud, Tania was strategically shunned and on the outs with her first tribe, finding a brief reprieve at the titular Island of Secrets, and then salvation with her post-swap Misfits. They eventually voted her out, but only because they had no other option and everyone was sad about it. Tania qualifies watching and hearing about herself on the show as a form of intensive therapy and comes armed with partly-memorised moon charts to put this self-growth into action.
Noleen "Pinty" Nkanjeni, 31, 19th Place, Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island
Pinty was the first boot of her tribe and second from the season. She came into conflict about camp life with other tribe members and found her Four-midable alliance faltering when she shared Chappies’ (remember that name) advantage information, ultimately being voted out in the pursuit of tribe unity. With many life evolutions in the year since she played, not the least of which included watching her experience back on TV, Pinty is coming back with a different tack.
Thoriso M-Afrika, 37, 16th Place, Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island
Instantly ostracised from her tribe’s majority, Thoriso was saved from probable first boot-doom by Immunity Island but gave up her vote at the first two tribal councils for the privilege. Working on individual bonds with her original tribemates and then eventual post-swap options too, these connections fell apart as, vote-less, she bluffed having a Hidden Immunity Idol and put off other players with her loose-lipped schemes, ultimately being communally ousted as a secondary split vote option. A superfan and keen observer, Thoriso will be leaning into being more social this time, or at least pretending to be.
Dino Paulo, 31, 14th Place, Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island
Dino was another super fan realising a lifelong dream, but those understandable nerves manifested into playing very hard, very fast on his first outing. He grabbed a one-vote public idol, he asked Paul for help (I know that’s out of context, but it made about as much sense there as it does here) and he spent the rest of his game trying to dig himself out of that hole. He made strides, with sociability and puzzle skills that should bolster his return, but became victim to an unfortunate swap. With inherent likeability and hard lessons learned, Dino is my winner pick. Don’t let me down, Dino!
The Masu tribe could get messy. It’s comprised of several hyper-physical, alpha, frenetic, emotional, villainous players, with the in-built game and outside relationships, both positive and negative, which you’ll come to learn in these introductions. Chaos is sure to reign.
Tejan Pillay, 42, 7th Place, Survivor South Africa: Maldives
Over a decade ago, Tejan ruled the Maldives on a Celebs V Plebs-themed season, with players they really did officially call Plebs. When the two groups were mixed into new tribes, he ensured his Plebs majority, while also working across the aisle to take out some of his own and consolidate strength, all in endless blindsides. That dominance, together with physical prowess and idols both real and fake, and a lack of trust due to all the blindsiding, made him a clear threat and sent him home. A passion for Survivor enacted in both the live and online communities since then means he’s raring to go, even with the longest layoff.
Marian de Vos, 32, 11th Place, Survivor South Africa: Champions
An original superfan, Marian ran the Champions pre-merge with her partner in (sometimes, in a game sense, literal) crime Shane, controlling two tribe iterations, hiding the clothes of enemies and being an accomplice to idol stealing. At the merge, their group was outnumbered when their opponents joined up with the people they had ostracised and the inseparable duo traded Shane’s idol back and forth, finally saving him and sending her home as the merge boot. She has since developed the skin condition Vitiligo and is a model and advocate who has endured through mental health battles to return and take on her favourite game.
Shane Hattingh, 50, 7th Place, Survivor South Africa: Champions
The other half of that equation, and now reunited as one of the most lethal pairs in Survivor history, Shane similarly dominated the pre-merge and, when left alone after Marian was sent home in their mutual display of loyalty, joined with other power players post-merge to improbably manoeuvre through several more rounds. While he found and/or stole three idols, he was sent home with two of them, in a blindside that spoke to his threat level. A former counter-intelligence agent, Shane is still as calculated and cutting eight years on, in a way other players both fear and revere.
Palesa Tau, 31, 8th Place, Survivor South Africa: Philippines
Initially condemned to the losing side of Seamus’ stark tribal factions, Palesa’s strategic chops were on full display early. She found clues and idols from camp to tribal council and beyond, using just a pouch to bluff her tribe into sensationally going to rocks in episode 2 to pull back the numbers before a swap. Finding herself as the underdog to a bus-built alliance at the merge, Palesa invested in idol plays and an uneasy frenemy relationship to try to gain traction but was nonetheless sent home with an idol in her pocket. She returns with the target of a global reputation as a franchise queen.
Antoinette "Toni" Tebbutt, 41, 7th Place, Survivor South Africa: Philippines
Socially and strategically central through the pre-merge, a combination of tribe swaps and betrayals (remember Tevin’s blindside?) shifted the game structure so that Toni was only alliance-adjacent while her former friends ran the game. She spent the rest of the season trying to take them down, eventually succumbing to the onslaught, and giving an extra vote away in the process. With some life changes since she last played and strong social ties in the Survivor community, Toni is back to channel her self-professed emotionality and love of the game into a win.
Pheko "PK" Phetoe, 31, 6th Place, Survivor South Africa: Philippines
The third part of this back-to-back Philippines triumvirate, you can learn a lot about PK by hearing that we nicknamed him PKaos. Playing the pre-merge as the Brutus to Tevin’s Caesar (pre-stabbing), he shockingly severed that tie just as history foretold. It was all downhill from there, as he too came up against the unbreakable alliance without his partner to protect him. He saved himself once with an idol and entertained with iconic arguments, but ultimately went down against the ship. Now he promises controlled chaos, with a newfound Survivor fandom he hopes to translate into strategic acumen.
Meryl Szolkiewicz, 33, 13th Place, Survivor South Africa: Island of Secrets
In control early on in her original tribe, Meryl found herself on the outs through two tribe swaps, navigating as the brains to Danté’s brawn and finding a soon-public idol, which was flushed at her only tribal council through these phases. At the merge, she was outcasted again against the big majority and sent to the jury, but now returns to put her strategic, social and physical (she’s a Pilates instructor) potential to better use, with Danté alongside her as either an asset or liability.
Danté de Villiers, 33, 10th Place, Survivor South Africa: Island of Secrets
A challenge beast and social introvert, Danté’s pre-merge pathway mirrored Meryl’s and, in his remaining few rounds, he valiantly tried to cobble together a “loose change” alliance against the unyielding majority. Eventually taken out as a physical threat, Danté’s time in the game saw some conflicts and he was known to enjoy long walks on the beach (or rewards) better alone. Whether this chosen isolation has deepened remains to be seen, as do the results of his battle with fellow competitor Chappies for the true title of Aquaman.
Steffi Brink, 30, 5th Place, Survivor South Africa: Island of Secrets
Unlike the other underdogs on this cast, Steffi was part of the instant and dominant Amigos alliance that ruled the game with an iron fist, a divide that Steffi contributed to with her athleticism and social intensity. It was a late game loved ones visit that opened her eyes to the threat level of her own allies, but stronger connections, idols, immunity wins and time all worked against her, leaving her as the only vulnerable player at the Final 5, paying for her betrayal in the same way she had penalised others. Now, pre-game, Steffi is nearly unrecognisable, opting for a gentle approach to correct her prior austerity.
Francois "Chappies" Chapman, 33, 3rd Place, Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island
Returning as the franchise’s most recent recipient of the fan favourite award, Chappies was immediately one to watch, earning a reputation as he ran around naked, controversially and comically stole food to eat alone at “Chappies’ Diner” and straight-up saved fellow castaways who struggled to swim thanks to strong winds and currents in a challenge. Finding only temporary strategic footholds throughout the game, Chappies was an increasing target due to his physical prowess, where he proved particularly unbeatable in the water. Winning his way to the Final 3 and assuming he was home with an impressive story for the jury, a Final 2 reveal and challenge loss spelled the end of his game on day 38. He returns with that target and the urge to go one day more.
Journalist Shannon Guss hosts International Survivor coverage on Rob Has A Podcast's Survivor International RHAPup. Find out more here.
Survivor South Africa: Return Of The Outcasts, premieres Tuesday, 19 July at 4 am, only on 10 Play