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Bongi Mbonambi accused England of adopting a “first world” mentality following Tom Curry’s allegation that he was racially abused by the South Africa hooker.
The England flanker had complained to Australian referee Ben O’Keeffe that Mbonambi called him a “white c—” 27 minutes into their semi-final match, which South Africa won 16-15 on October 21 in Paris. The Rugby Football Union followed up Curry’s allegation with a complaint to World Rugby, who found there was “insufficient evidence” to warrant disciplinary action against Mbonambi, who went to start the World Cup final victory over New Zealand. Mbonambi says that the allegations were “unprofessional”.
Speaking for the first time since the incident, Mbonambi, 32, claims that Curry’s allegation was a misunderstanding because was speaking Afrikaans. Although he did not specify which term he used, there have been suggestions that he was saying “wit kant”, meaning “white side”. Mbonambi says that he “does not know him [Curry] at all” but says that the RFU’s follow-up complaint smacks of a colonial mindset.
“I think it is a very sad thing when you live in a first-world country [England], you think the rest of the world speaks English,” Mbonambi told BBC Sport Africa.
“It was unprofessional on their part. They could have gone on a website and looked for an English dictionary and looked for the word in Afrikaans. People understood [in South Africa] but obviously their side was misunderstood. I’m glad it was well taken care of [by World Rugby] and that is all in the past now. But I have never racially swore at him.”
World Rugby investigated all available video and audio as well as taking written submissions from both teams but have closed the investigation unless “additional evidence comes to light”. England alleged that this was not a one-off and that Curry was also abused by Mbonambi during the side’s autumn international match in 2022.
South Africa’s Trevor Nyakane, left, and Mbongeni Mbonambi celebrate the World Cup win.Credit: AP
Head coach Steve Borthwick launched a stinging attack on the sport’s governing body after Curry was unable to deliver his evidence in person.
“We have got a victim of a situation who has not been able to have his voice heard and they [World Rugby] have denied the victim of the situation, Tom Curry, to have his voice heard,” Borthwick said.
“That’s where the disappointment really comes in.
“I think everything we have done, and everything Tom has done, has been in the right way. World Rugby have come to this decision, which is incredibly disappointing.”
Curry and his family have received threats and abuse since the allegations came to light, which World Rugby says that it is “concerned” by, while Springbok captain Siya Kolisi expressed sympathy with the England flanker.
South Africa, meanwhile, have continued to make light of the situation, making frequent references to “kant”.
The latest came in the Springboks’ trophy parade in Cape Town when Mbonambi was presented with a shirt by the city’s mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis, with the word “wenkant” across the front, translating from Afrikaans as “winning side”.
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