South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi has accused England of being “unprofessional” over allegations that he racially abused Tom Curry during last month’s Rugby World Cup semi-final.
World Rugby found “insufficient evidence” to back up Curry’s claim, made to referee Ben O’Keeffe, that he was called a “white cunt” by the Springboks hooker midway through the first half of the match in Paris. Mbonambi said the “misunderstanding” arose because Curry failed to realise he was speaking Afrikaans, a common practice among the Springboks to ensure opponents do not understand their messages.
“I think it is a very sad thing when you live in a first world country [England], you think the rest of the world speaks English,” he told BBC Sport Africa. “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.
“I’m glad it was well taken care of [by World Rugby] and that is all in the past now,” Mbonambi added. “But I have never racially swore at him.”
World Rugby stressed that Curry made the allegation in good faith and added there was no suggestion that it was “deliberately false or malicious”. Nonetheless, the Rugby Football Union and England’s head coach, Steve Borthwick, hit out at the governing body for not allowing Curry to “have his voice heard”.
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Both players have been subjected to online abuse since the alleged incident, with Curry’s club, Sale Sharks, saying they were “disgusted” by some of the criticism aimed at Curry.