Sport

RWC 2023

Boks brace for World Cup final, unfazed by Curry’s racial slur allegations against Mbonambi

Boks brace for World Cup final, unfazed by Curry’s racial slur allegations against Mbonambi
Bongi Mbonambi of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup 2023 semifinal match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on 21 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Steve Haag / Gallo Images)

The Springboks have not been distracted by racial slur allegations against hooker Bongi Mbonambi as they prepare to face the All Blacks in the final of Rugby World Cup 2023.

Springbok assistant coach Felix Jones dismissed any suggestions that they have been distracted by off-field matters in the build-up to Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final at Stade de France. 

Sitting on the stage of the Salle Jeanne d’Arc, squinting into the bright spotlights overhead, the players and Jones exuded quiet confidence and focus for the biggest rugby match in four years.

Springbok assistant coach Felix Jones during the Rugby World Cup 2023 Pool B match between South Africa and Tonga at Stade Vélodrome on 1 October 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: Steve Haag / Gallo Images)

Mbonambi faces a World Rugby investigation into his alleged racial slur directed at England flank Tom Curry during the Boks’ 16-15 semifinal win in Saint-Denis last Saturday.

Four days after the allegations were made, there is still no clarity over whether Curry’s version of events is accurate, whether there was a misunderstanding, or whether there will be a disciplinary hearing. At the time of publishing, the investigation was ongoing.

The Boks would not comment further, saying it was an issue for World Rugby, while World Rugby could not say how long it would take to finalise the matter.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023 News Hub

“We will provide an update as soon as there’s something to update. The first part of the review is about evidence-gathering and we’ll update as soon as that’s done,” World Rugby spokesperson Dominic Rumbles said at a media briefing.

“I appreciate the commentary around the matter, but there’s a process in place.”

It would appear from the outside that this must be a huge distraction to the Boks days before facing the All Blacks in the sport’s biggest game. But if it is, they’re hiding it well.

“The mood in the camp is, as you would expect for a World Cup final, everyone is hugely excited … a high level of focus,” said Jones, who will be involved with the Boks for the last time.

“Everyone will want to get their detail down early in the week and concentrate on delivering a performance. 

“I don’t think the history of the rivalry is something that’s been thrown around too much early in the week. But I think everyone has it in their mind – they are conscious of it. They are conscious this is another time we will meet New Zealand in the final.  

“It drives excitement and it adds to the occasion.”

Boks against the world

If anything, the Mbonambi situation will further galvanise the team as they have no doubts about the hooker’s innocence.

Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is one of the shrewdest people in the game, and insiders talk of how he is able to tap into the players’ psyche to build them up for the big occasion.

In this instance, all the motivation he needs is provided through what the Boks will perceive as a witch hunt and another example of how the world is out to get them.

Kwagga Smith of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup 2023 semifinal match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on 21 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

Asked if he felt the Boks weren’t respected, flank Kwagga Smith replied firmly: “We don’t play for people to respect us; we play for each other and we play for South Africa, so they can be proud of us.”

The Boks might not care if anyone respects them, but they will find that the All Blacks have a healthy dose of respect for the men in green – especially after watching the Boks fight back to beat France and England by a point each.

“They are never [out of it],” said All Blacks defence coach Scott McLeod. 

“That’s always their mentality. They come from a country where they are very hardened, and they know how to stay in the fight, and to win the fight. They’ve shown that for many years, and at the last World Cup as well.”

McLeod also highlighted the importance of a good start for both teams.

“Both sides will focus on the first 20 minutes. We need to be accurate and apply pressure. The Boks always come out [fast] and we will take our lessons from Mount Smart [Stadium] and want to do the same,” McLeod said.

“We felt we were hungrier and quicker in that first game, and in the second game we were slow to get into the air, and slow to get back and assist. They beat us into that space. Whoever wins those spaces will win that battle.

“If we don’t win that airspace, it’s one of South Africa’s main threats with their ability to play quickly off those turnovers.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Malcolm Mitchell says:

    Perhaps world rugby officials should investigate the false allegations by Curry. If media reports are correct no other England player heard anything!
    But as any Irishman will tell you, the English have been shown to be a duplicitous people over centuries of Irish/English relations.

    • Rob Fisher says:

      As a South African with Irish/Scottish (and some English) roots. My wife is Irish Zimbabwean. How many times have all these parties been screwed by the English. Don’t even go to the Israel/Palestine conflict roots. Or India/Pakistan/Bangladesh.
      The level of bitterness against the English is universal. The supposed epithet was way too mild to be true.

  • Dewald Aukema says:

    Divide and Rule, at the root of so many contemporary conflicts between nations on Planet Earth…

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Are they investigating the threats against Reinach?

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