Tonight on SAS Australia, the toughest test of their lives came to a heart-stopping conclusion for the final five recruits: Dan Ewing, 35; Jana Pittman, 38; John Steffensen, 38; Mark Philippoussis, 44; and Sam Burgess, 32.
With just 36 hours to go, phase one of final selection began: a test of the recruits’ ability to recall critical details. All four DS interrogated each recruit after they had been captured and detained by hostiles, testing their memory of the ambush.
In a cutthroat assessment, the DS decided to cull Dan from the course, leaving just four recruits to continue on.
Jana, John, Mark and Sam were each offered the chance to make a video call to loved ones, with all but John taking up the opportunity to make an emotional call home.
With just eight hours to go, recruits were then put into pairs for the second phase of final selection: a combat exercise to locate and recover a cache in an active war-zone. Recruits then had to make their way to an extraction point to be airlifted to safety, all within a strict 30 minute timeframe.
This ultimate test of teamwork, communication, courage and aggression saw Jana having to dig deep into her reserves to keep up with teammate Mark, while asthmatic John passed out on the final descent from extraction with Sam.
Despite finishing the task, Jana was also culled by the DS, with Chief Instructor Ant Middleton congratulating her on an outstanding effort: “We are all super proud of you and we would have loved to have brought you forward, but your reserve is empty.”
“Naturally I’m disappointed but I gave everything I had and I’ve learnt so much on the course, it’s been an extraordinary journey,” said Jana. “I was the last woman standing for a while. I’m really proud of all the things I achieved.”
The third and final stage of selection saw John, Mark and Sam having to crawl along a rope, suspended 300 metres above a deep ravine, and at the middle, drop and hang at full arm extension for a painful 90 seconds.
Physically and mentally exhausted, and battling injuries, all three men managed to complete the task successfully, before the DS deliberated who would pass or fail selection, asking themselves, “Would I have this person by my side on the battlefield?”
Ant informed recruit #16 Sam Burgess that he was the only recruit to successfully pass the course, telling him he was “just that level ahead” of the other two, with John admitting Sam was “a class above”.
“I thought that big head of his was empty but he’s got a brain in there,” said Ant.
Sam was filled with emotion and joy at having achieved his goal of getting to the end and being selected.
“What I’m taking from it is I’m going to pour all of my time, my emotion, into the places that deserve it in my life,” said Sam. “It starts with my kids and making sure I’m the best role model for them. It’s just a great lesson in life.”
Wednesday 7.30pm, the unmissable SAS Australia reunion special sees all 18 celebrity recruits return to base camp one last time to debrief with the DS and talk about their life-changing experience on SAS selection.