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Tom Curry accuses South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi of using racial slur

The England flanker Tom Curry accused South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi of calling him a “white cunt” during his side’s heartbreaking World Cup semi-final defeat on Saturday. South Africa Rugby has responded to the allegation – made to the referee, Ben O’Keeffe, in the first half of the Springboks’ one-point victory – promising to investigate the incident.

Curry can clearly be heard on a recording via O’Keeffe’s microphone making the allegation of a racist slur to the official in the 28th minute of the match. He said: “Sir, sir, if their hooker calls me a white cunt what do I do?” The New Zealander responded by saying: “Nothing please.” He goes on to add, after a short pause: “I’ll be on it,” though it is unclear if he is referring to the specific incident. There is no audio available of the alleged comment by Mbonambi.

Curry was visibly shaken after the match. When asked if something was said to him by Mbonambi, he said: “Yeah.” Pressed on what had been said, he declined to say but asked if the matter had been resolved at the end of the match – Curry appeared to go to shake hands with Mbonambi but the South African seemed to push his hand away – he added: “No. It doesn’t need to be talked about. I’m not talking about it now.”

England’s Tom Curry speaks to Ben O’Keeffe, the referee of England’s World Cup semi-final against South AfricaEngland’s Tom Curry speaks to Ben O’Keeffe, the referee of England’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

Steve Borthwick declined to comment on the incident on Sunday but England are able to lodge a request for it to be reviewed. World Rugby also refused to comment before the citing window – 36 hours after the match – had elapsed.

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On Sunday morning, the Springboks forwards coach, Deon Davids, was asked about Mbonambi’s alleged comment to Curry. He said: “I’m not aware of that, I’m not aware of any comment, if it was discussed, I’m not sure what the comment was or when it was said. I don’t know.”

SA Rugby soon issued a statement, however. “We are aware of the allegation, which we take very seriously, and are reviewing the available evidence,” it read. “We will engage with Bongi if anything is found to substantiate the claim.”

The Springboks clinched victory with a 78th-minute penalty by Handré Pollard and at the full-time whistle one of a number of flare-ups between the two sides ensued. The England captain, Owen Farrell, clashed with South Africa’s Willie le Roux but afterwards attempted to play down the incident, insisting it was just a “misunderstanding”.

Springboks look to All Blacks but admit England 'dominated' semi-final – video00:01:11Springboks look to All Blacks but admit England ‘dominated’ semi-final – video

If Mbonambi faces disciplinary action he could be handed a suspension in line with law 9.12 which states a player must not verbally abuse anyone. World Rugby regulations prohibit abuse based on, but not limited to “religion, colour, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation”. World Rugby could also intervene on the grounds of “bringing the game into disrepute”.

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If Mbonambi were to be banned it would be a major setback for South Africa before the final against New Zealand on Saturday given he is the only specialist hooker in the squad. Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden both provide cover but Mbonambi was picked as the sole player full-time in that position after Malcolm Marx was ruled out through injury.

Meanwhile, Jonny May has accused South Africa of not respecting England after Saturday’s single-point defeat for Borthwick’s men. Seemingly referring to Chasing the Sun, a documentary that charted the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup triumph and their final victory over England, the wing told Sky Sports: “I’ll be honest I don’t think necessarily the South Africans respect us. Some of the things their coach has openly said about us in their documentaries and stuff probably just adds fuel to the fire.” Asked if England had used that as motivation, May added: “Certainly some boys probably did, yeah. We touched on their documentary and we’ve got staff who were with them and they gave us insight of how they feel about us.”