RWC 2023

England rugby union ‘deeply disappointed’ with Mbonambi investigation outcome, while Kolisi offers Curry support

England rugby union ‘deeply disappointed’ with Mbonambi investigation outcome, while Kolisi offers Curry support
Tom Curry of England reacts during the Rugby World Cup 2023 match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on 21 October 2023 in Paris. (Photo: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) released a scathing statement after claims of a racial slur by Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi were dismissed by World Rugby for 'insufficient evidence'.

Despite finding no evidence supporting Tom Curry’s claim of a racial remark by Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi and World Rugby’s decision to drop the investigation, the matter will not go away. 

The RFU, England’s governing body, were furious at the outcome and issued a critical statement on Thursday 26 October, confirming that Curry believes he had also been racially abused when the sides met in November 2022.

“[This outcome has] denied the disciplinary process the opportunity to hear Tom Curry’s voice,” the RFU’s statement read.

The South African Rugby Union (Saru) would not be drawn on the RFU stance but did say in a statement: 

“Bongi Mbonambi is an experienced, respected and decorated Test player and, needless to say, denied the allegations from the outset. SA Rugby has absolute faith in the honesty and integrity of Bongi. 

“Saru has noted World Rugby’s announcement concerning their investigation into an incident arising from the Rugby World Cup semi-final and welcomes the decision that no further action will be taken.  

“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.” 

Curry and his family have been the object of online abuse.

Siya Kolisi during the Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final between England and South Africa at Stade de France. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini/Gallo Images)

On the point of online abuse, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi offered support to Curry, displaying his humanity and leadership.

“I have spoken to him, I sent him a message. He is someone I respect,” Kolisi told media at the announcement of the Springbok team to take on the All Blacks in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final at Stade de France. 

“We can take it [criticism] as players, when it comes to us directly it’s fine. But when it comes to your family, it’s totally different and that’s exactly what he said to me.

“It’s the one part of the game we really don’t enjoy. I hope obviously it stops and he was able to prepare as much as he could for the game that he’s playing tomorrow.  

“I have let him know we are supporting him, we are thinking of him.” 

The conciliatory tone was a far cry from the RFU’s statement. 

Bongi Mbonambi looks on during the Rugby World Cup 2023 match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on 21 October 2023 in Paris. (Photo: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

England unhappy 

World Rugby confirmed that there is “insufficient evidence” to pursue a case of the alleged use of “discriminatory language” by Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi against England’s Tom Curry. But England is unhappy. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Insufficient evidence’ – Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi cleared in racial slur saga

The incident allegedly happened during last weekend’s semifinal after the flanker approached referee Ben O’Keeffe in the first half of the encounter and accused Mbonambi of using a racial slur. 

“Having considered all the available evidence, including match footage, audio and evidence from both teams, the governing body has determined that there is insufficient evidence at this time to proceed with charges. Therefore, the matter is deemed closed unless additional evidence comes to light.” 

The RFU though, appears to have decided that Mbonambi is guilty, despite an evidence-gathering process by World Rugby, which didn’t reveal sufficient evidence to take the matter further. 

The RFU is backing their man and continues to imply that Mbonambi committed a racial slur. It appears they may have evidence of an alleged 2022 slur and are trying to use it to create precedent for the alleged incident at Stade de France last weekend. 

It’s almost reached the realms of science fiction now as there are many plausible reasons why Curry might believe he heard the words “white c…”.

Mbonambi’s character abuse

While the online abuse Curry and his family have endured is abhorrent, at least in British media, there seems to be no concern for Mbonambi’s character, and the abuse he has suffered. 

The RFU stated: “The RFU fully support Tom Curry in raising the racially abusive behaviour he experienced whilst playing for England against South Africa,” it said in a statement. 

“During the match between England and South Africa on Saturday 21st October 2023, Tom Curry reported to the referee that he has been racially abused by Mbongeni Mbonambi. 

“The subsequent World Rugby investigation were informed by Tom Curry that he had also been the victim of the same abuse, from the same player, in the Autumn Test 2022.

“World Rugby have today announced their decision not to bring charges in respect of either incident. 

“The RFU are deeply disappointed by the decision taken by World Rugby. The decision not to put the evidence before an Independent Disciplinary Panel has denied the disciplinary process the opportunity to hear Tom Curry’s voice and to independently assess his account of these serious events, together with the other available evidence.  

“In their continued full support of Tom, the RFU, together with the England Squad, condemn the disgusting abuse he and his family has received on social media as a result of his having had the courage to put unacceptable behaviour that has no place in society or on the rugby field, in the public eye.

“Abuse of any kind is not acceptable and goes against the core values of rugby. It is important that it is safe and acceptable for everyone involved in rugby union to raise concerns, and the RFU continue to encourage everyone to report any unacceptable behaviour in the game.” 

In a clever bit of legal phrasing, the RFU’s statement does not confirm whether Curry ever answered questions as part of World Rugby’s investigation, but only that he will not have the chance to answer questions in a disciplinary hearing. 

For clarity, Mbonambi was presented questions by the World Rugby investigations team and he answered them. The same courtesy was presumably extended to Curry. 

Bongi Mbonambi of South Africa during the Pool B match between South Africa and Ireland at Stade de France on 23 September 2023 in Paris. (Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Boks unaffected by situation 

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber said the Bok players had been shielded from the situation in their build-up to Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final against the All Blacks at Stade de France.

Read more in Daily Maverick: RasNaber confound again as Boks go 7-1 for World Cup final against All Blacks 

“We are fortunate in terms of support of a legal team and everybody who worked behind the scenes. We were shielded from it,” Nienaber said.

“Where we stay, we are almost in our own bubbles. For us it was business as usual and we focused on rugby and that was taken care of in the background.” 

Mbonambi was named in the Springbok team for the final. The Boks have opted for a 7-1 split between forwards and backs on the bench. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Bonzo Gibbon says:

    In the build up to the 1995 WC the English captain described the RFU committee as “57 old farts in blazers”. He was immediately sacked as captain. I suspect nothing much has changed with the RFU since then.

    • Graeme J says:

      The old farts’ only evidence is Curry’s allegation.

      I hope Argentina thrashes the worst losers in the RWC, then they can really go home empty handed,

  • Steve Davidson says:

    I see they’re now getting even more insulting to Bongi and SARU etc etc.

    These people are ridiculous, but then – like with World Rugby – when you’ve got the English gutter press, and that includes the Torygraph, sorry Telegraph, along with the usual suspects like the Daily Heil, Express or Sun, you have to make out that you’re doing something, no matter what lack of proof you might have. And of course the worst thing the Boks did was to beat their little darlings when – like in 2019 – they arrogantly thought they could win just by running on the field. They are a total and utter disgrace and an embarrassment to the rugby world. They’ve also insulted WR who have declared there’s no proof whatsoever. Worse, they’re dredging up what they call a similar incident from last year – why not bring it up last year if it was so important – which might IMHO indicate that they could learn a bit of die taal?

    Whatever, I’m sure die Bokke will hold die blink kant bo! Oh….right…. AND FREAKING WELL WIN!!!

    • Enver Klein says:

      Let’s just hope the “Nuclear” Bomb Squad do the job, a very risky 7:1 split, but if no injuries to any backline players, the Springboks will get the job done 🤞🏽

    • Paddy Ross says:

      ‘No proof’ is not synonymous with ‘not guilty’.

      • David Franklin says:

        The phrase “not guilty” does not mean what you think it does. It does not mean that the investigating body believes that the accused is innocent. It means that there is not enough compelling evidence to find them guilty.
        While you may be appalled that someone should get off when they did something, just because there is no proof that they did it, may I invite you to consider the alternative?
        It would be a gross miscarriage of justice to find anyone guilty of something purely because someone said that they did it, with zero evidence of the accused’s guilt beyond the plaintiff’s accusation.
        There’s an old saying that’s applicable here: “Give a dog a bad name and hang him.”

    • Betsy Kuhn says:

      Steve…you spelled blink KANT WRONG….lol Should start with A “CU”

  • Hugh McLelland says:

    So why didn’t he report the 2022 incident?

  • Johan Buys says:

    daar is gewoonlik twee kante aan elke storie, maar in hierdie geval : net een

    • Mark Cowell says:

      If there are two sides to a story, thats it…..looks like a bit of a raw nerve has been exposed by the Curry incident

      • Pieter van de Venter says:

        Of course it is a raw nerve – Remember 2012 with the “allegation” against Eben Etzebeth and Tebang Jones (a lawyer) declared him guilty and then there was the Bomb-Squad photograph that was also a racists incident because Am was sent away?? Wonder if the same English Journo is maybe involved, or not?

  • Manie Krause says:

    I am just glad that nobody can read anything in “Swart kant!” this weekend!

  • Enver Klein says:

    Opposition players have “slept” with my mother, my sisters and my wife and fathered all my children, but we shook hands after the game. Tom Curry and RFU are just a bunch of whiners. All we need is for Bafana to beat them ASAP.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    The problem is if you are entitled and dont learn any other language ,you make your name stupid.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    RFU, as things stand there is no corroborating evidence so whatever Curry might or might not say and think is really irrelevant.

    Also I would also be extremely surprised if Curry is a boy scout on the field. This is rugby, guys get heated and can say or do silly things.

    If you have real evidence bring it to the table, otherwise man up and move on as you are simply making rugby suffer right now.

  • Nic Bosveld says:

    Incredible that the focus is on the ”white” part of the alleged slur. And not on the actual insult, which in my opinion should draw a lot more ire from Curry.

  • Chrisdickens7979 says:

    And the classic English rhyme has it…. “Sticks and stones may break my bones
    but words shall never hurt me.” Somebody lost that perspective.

  • Stephen Paul says:

    In a perverse way it almost displays a racist attitude by Curry and the RFU when they arrogantly abrogate to themselves the assumption that other teams must be speaking English.

  • jason du toit says:

    england: learn some afrikaans. choose your side and subject.

  • Koggel Mander says:

    The English had better start growing thicker skins, and fast. This sort of (imagined) insult goes with the territory of rich diversity, which they wanted.

  • Louise Wilkins says:

    If this was a misunderstanding of the afrikaans words ‘white side’ (wit kant) then why has it not been included in the article?

  • Robert Gornal says:

    As the comment which has been going around on WhatsApp it is just as well that Faf did not ask Bongi which side he wanted the ball to which Bongi may have replied in Afrikaans “Choose my side”.

  • Egmont Rohwer says:

    Something like Afrikaans for “choose my bait?”

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.