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SOWETAN | Boks must keep focus despite drama

Bongi Mbonambi looks on during a South Africa training session ahead of their Rugby World Cup France 2023 Final match against New Zealand at Stade des Fauvettes.
Bongi Mbonambi looks on during a South Africa training session ahead of their Rugby World Cup France 2023 Final match against New Zealand at Stade des Fauvettes.
Image: David Rogers

It is unfortunate, although not surprising, that as our nation breathed a sigh of relief following the Springboks' epic battle against England on Saturday, dominating public discourse thereafter would be controversy that appears to be baseless. 

During a do-or-die World Cup semifinal at which SA snatched a miraculous last-minute win, English flanker Tom Curry could be heard telling referee Ben O’Keeffe that he had just been racially abused by Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi. 

Curry claimed that Mbonambi – who has played in multi-racial teams all his life – referred to him as a “white c**t”. 

O’Keeffe dismissed the assertion during play but England media publications picked up the complaint and began leading the charge against Mbonambi. 

There is no audio evidence of Mbonambi’s alleged slur. If he racially insulted Curry, he must be held accountable through appropriate platforms provided by World Rugby.

There is no place for racism or any other discrimination in sport. However, like many South Africans, we hold a healthy dosage of scepticism about Curry’s version. 

First, the English player is a controversial character who is a common feature in field skirmishes. This does not make him immune to racial abuse, nor does it justify it.

However, it does raise a question about whether spinning a story that would influence the perception of the referee against an opponent is a bridge too far for a player who has the propensity to breach the rules in search for a win.

Second, it is common cause that the Springboks largely communicate in Afrikaans during play to avoid being understood by the other team.

Therefore, the assertion by many that Mbonambi may have been referring to a side (kant in Afrikaans) and therefore misunderstood by Curry is not only plausible but is likely. 

This is especially when considering that the word c**t is not at all a commonly used expletive in SA.

There is no doubt that for our opponents, on and off the field, this controversy – under investigation by World Rugby – may serve as a welcome distraction in the Springbok camp, as they make their last stretch to the final against the All Blacks on Saturday.

We hope our boys stay the course, keep the focus and know that our proud nation is fully behind them as they, yet again, stand on the cusp of glory. 


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