England will continue to back Tom Curry in his racism claim against South Africa player Bongi Mbonambi after media in South Africa called into question the timeline of the incident. The row allegedly occurred during England’s agonising Rugby World Cup semifinal defeat to the Springboks last Saturday, with England crashing out of the competition after Handre Pollard’s last-gasp penalty. But reports in South Africa have raised doubts about the time when it allegedly happened.
Curry has alleged South Africa hooker Mbonambi called him a “white c***” 30 minutes into the game when the score was 9-3 in England’s favour. Approaching referee Ben O’Keeffe during the game, Curry queried: “Sir, if their hooker calls me a white c***, what do I do?” The New Zealand official replied: “Nothing please, I’ll be on it.”
The interaction was picked up by O’Keeffe’s microphone and an official review was opened in the aftermath of the game. In his post-match interview, an emotional Curry confirmed that an unsavoury incident had occurred with Mbonambi but the 25-year-old refused to go into any detail.
However, Curry’s recollection of the exchange has been disputed by media in South Africa. A report from outlet Netwerk24 quotes an unnamed source, who claims Curry’s accusation actually refers to an incident that took place over a year ago, as opposed to the semifinal clash five days ago.
Instead, the report refers to a tense verbal exchange between Curry and Mbonambi when the two nations met in the Autumn International in November 2022, with South Africa winning 27-13 at Twickenham. It also suggests this is the reason why World Rugby’s investigation is taking longer than expected.
But Express Sport understands that England are standing by Curry’s account – which maintains that the incident took place last Saturday – irrespective of any incident that may or may not have occurred a year ago.
The Sale Sharks star has been selected to start in England’s bronze medal match against Argentina on Friday night while the investigation remains ongoing, with England’s coaching confirming they have been providing support to the England flanker after he was targeted with ‘disgusting’ abuse.