Mbonambi: World Rugby still probing Bok, but action now seems unlikely
World Rugby is still in the evidence-gathering phase in its investigation into whether Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi racially abused England's Tom Curry on Saturday.
Whether guilty or not it now seems unlikely any action can be taken against Mbonambi before Saturday's World Cup final against New Zealand at the Stade de France.
Rugby's organising body announced on Monday it was set to investigate a complaint by England that alleges Mbonambi called Curry a “white c**t” during the Boks' 16-15 Rugby World Cup semifinal at Stade de France.
“We spoke about that yesterday and can't add anything more to that statement,” World Rugby's chief communications officer Dominic Rumbles said. “We will update you as soon as we have something to update. The aim is to do that review as quickly as possible.”
Pressed about the timeline for the investigation Rumbles said: “The first part of the review is about gathering evidence and we will update as soon as we can.”
Naturally the Boks will be keen to learn more about whether they will have their first choice hooker available for the climax match. Even if they find grounds to charge the player it is unlikely they will be able to arrange a disciplinary hearing before Saturday.
The Boks are due to name their team to play New Zealand at 9am on Thursday. Should Mbonambi be ruled out of the final Deon Fourie is likely to start with Marco van Staden taking a spot on the bench.
Mbonambi, the Boks' only specialist hooker, will be central to their cause. He has displayed admirable resolve and endurance in the absence of Malcolm Marx, whose tournament was cut short through a long-term knee injury.
“Malcolm Marx is a world-class hooker, but Mbonambi has played big minutes and done a good job for them,” All Blacks' forwards coach Jason Ryan observed.
On Monday the Kiwis were also drawn into the Mbonambi matter. New Zealand defence coach Scott McLeod reminded that it was a process for World Rugby to deal with.
“If anything came of it, it would be a huge dent for them,” said McLeod, supporting the view that Mbonambi is near-indispensable to the Bok cause.
“He is a leader of their team. When Siya [Kolisi, South Africa captain] goes off, he becomes the captain so I imagine it would impact them.”
On Monday, World Rugby issued a statement confirming they would investigate the complaint.
“World Rugby takes all allegations of discriminatory behaviour extremely seriously,” it said. “We can confirm we are formally reviewing the allegation made by England’s Tom Curry in relation to the use of discriminatory language during the England vs South Africa semifinal. World Rugby will not be making further comment until the conclusion of the process.”