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South Africans rally behind Boks' Mbonambi, ask for proof of 'racial slur'

Referee Ben O'Keeffe speaks with Bongi Mbonambi during the 2023 Rugby World Cup semifinal against England at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday night.
Referee Ben O'Keeffe speaks with Bongi Mbonambi during the 2023 Rugby World Cup semifinal against England at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday night.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

The Springboks' heated Rugby World Cup semifinal match against England at the weekend did not go down without drama. 

The Boks dumped England out of the tournament by a point at Stade de France in Paris, winning 15-16 to reach Saturday's final against the All Blacks.

Long after the final whistle rang at Stade de France, it seems the dust has not settled between the two sides. The win has been tainted by Bok hooker Bongani Mbonambi facing allegations that he uttered a racial slur against England flanker Tom Curry.

In audio clips on social media from referee Ben O'Keeffe's microphone, Curry can be heard alleging Mbonambi called him a “white c**t”. He reported the complaint in the 28th minute. 

The flanker said to O'Keeffe: “Sir, sir, if their hooker calls me a white c**t what do I do?”

O’Keeffe responded by saying: “Nothing please. I’ll be on it.”

There is no audio in the public domain of Mbonambi's alleged slur. 

In absence of evidence, there have been mixed reactions to the allegations on social media. Many South Africans seem to find it hard to believe the hooker might have uttered racist remarks towards Curry.

Some said Curry could have misunderstood Mbonambi because the Boks speak Afrikaans at times during games so as not to be understood by opponents. Suggestions were made that Mbonambi might have been saying “wit kant” or “white kant” (Afrikaans for “white side”), identifying the English team by the colour of their jerseys.

Some on social media felt the word “c**t” is not as popularly used in South Africa as in the UK.

SA Rugby said it was probing the allegations. “We are aware of the allegation, which we take very seriously, and are reviewing the available evidence. We will engage with Bongi if anything is found to substantiate the claim,” it said in a statement.

The debate continues on social media:

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