South African government aim dig at Tom Curry as ‘racist slur’ row turns ugly

South Africa’s government have seemingly aimed a dig at England flanker Tom Curry after winning their fourth Rugby World Cup over the weekend. The Springboks edged out New Zealand by a single point to retain the Webb Ellis Cup, four years on from their previous triumph in Japan.

The result saw Jacques Neinaber’s side become the first team to win the Rugby World Cup on four occasions, with the All Blacks falling short in their efforts to achieve the same feat. South Africa’s government were quick to send their official congratulations to the team but not without mocking Curry after he accused Bongi Mbonambi of racially abusing him in the semi-finals.

A government statement read: “Government also thanks all South Africans for rallying behind the team, and supporting them through the nail-biting games. The Webb Ellis [Cup] is in South Africa’s kant!”

The wording of the statement appeared to be a deliberate reference to the racism row that engulfed the Springboks camp following their semi-final victory over England. Curry alleged that Mbonambi had called him a ‘white c***’ at one point during the match, although the latter was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing due to a lack of conclusive evidence.

Curry approached referee Ben O’Keeffe just before the half-hour mark and was overheard asking him: “Sir, sir, if their hooker calls me a white c***, what do I do?” O’Keeffe replied: “Nothing, please, I’ll be on it.” Curry subsequently claimed that Mbonambi had already used the same slur towards him when the Springboks faced England at Twickenham last year.

It has been suggested in some quarters that Mbonambi may have actually said ‘wit kant’, which translates to ‘white side’ in the Afrikaans language, rather than abusing Curry. Ahead of the final, the Springboks were caught on camera using the words ‘watter kant’ in training, which means ‘which side’.

Mbonambi was later cleared to play against the All Blacks following an investigation by World Rugby, which failed to prove that racist language was used. His evening at the Stade de France was short-lived, though, as he limped off the pitch with an injury after just a few minutes.

The outcome of World Rugby’s investigation was heavily criticised by England head coach Steve Borthwick, who said: “Let’s be clear, Tom Curry has done nothing wrong. We have a victim of a situation who has not been able to have his voice heard. By World Rugby’s decision, they have denied the victim of the situation, Tom Curry, to have his voice heard. That’s where the disappointment really comes in.”

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