Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi has broken his silence on the racial abuse row that blew up after the Rugby World Cup semi-final against England. Mbonambi was accused by Tom Curry of calling him a ‘white c***’ during the match in Paris but he dismissed the allegations yesterday as a language mix-up and accused England of being narrow-minded in failing to consider the possibility.
“I’m glad it was well taken care of and that is all in the past now but I never racially swore at him,” said Mbonambi.
“I think it is a very sad thing when you live in a first-world country and you think the rest of the world speaks English. 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.”
The case was investigated by World Rugby after Curry made the allegations but Mbonambi was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing by the governing body. They added that the matter was ‘closed unless additional evidence comes to light’.
England head coach Steve Borthwick later argued that Curry was denied a fair hearing, while South Africa insisted they had ‘absolute faith in the honesty and integrity’ of Mbonambi and denied that any racial abuse had taken place. It was suggested that Mbonambi may have actually said ‘wit kant’, which translates to ‘white side’ in the Afrikaans language, rather than abusing Curry.
A statement from the Springboks read: “Any form of racism is abhorrent to SA Rugby and the Springbok team whose purpose is to do everything in its power to assist in uniting our diverse and multicultural nation. Bongi Mbonambi is an experienced, respected and decorated Test player and, needless to say, denied the allegations from the outset.”
In other news, Manu Tuilagi is set to be sidelined until Christmas with a hand injury picked up at the World Cup. The England centre was a key component in the run to the semi-finals, putting his injury issues behind him to play in six matches.
However, Sale’s hopes of having a fit and firing Tuilagi back to supercharge their Gallagher Premiership season have been dashed by the injury which will rule the 32-year-old out for a ‘few weeks’, according to director of rugby Alex Sanderson.
Meanwhile, World Cup breakout stars Portugal have been rewarded for their underdog heroics in France with a fixture against England A. Portugal, who drew with Georgia and beat Fiji, will face the resurrected England second-string on February 25 at Leicester.