- World Rugby investigating alleged racial comment
- Hooker could be suspended for final if found guilty
- Mbonambi only specialist hooker in squad
World Rugby has initiated a formal review of an alleged racial slur directed at England’s Tom Curry by South African hooker Bongi Mbonambi during their Rugby World Cup semi-final. The incident occurred approximately thirty minutes into the match, which ended in a victory for the Springboks.
Springboks without specialist hooker if Mbonambi receives ban
If found guilty, Mbonambi could face suspension, potentially affecting his availability for the final against New Zealand this Saturday. World Rugby has stated that they are treating the allegation with the utmost seriousness and will withhold further comments until the review process concludes.
After the match, Curry confirmed that an inappropriate comment had been made, but suggested it did not warrant further discussion. Tensions remained high, as it appeared Mbonambi declined to shake Curry’s hand after the final whistle.
South Africa’s scrum coach, Daan Human, refrained from commenting directly on the incident during a media conference on Monday. He emphasised Mbonambi’s significant role within the team, describing him as a humble, hardworking, and composed player.
Teams have up to 36 hours following a match to report incidents to the citing commissioner. Mbonambi, the only specialist hooker in South Africa’s squad, has been pivotal to the team’s strategy, particularly after the injury to Malcolm Marx led to the inclusion of fly-half Handre Pollard.
While Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden have been considered as cover for the hooker position, both primarily play as flankers. While a player cannot be drafted into a World Cup squad for suspension cover, special dispensation can be granted in cases where uncontested scrums are deemed necessary to maintain the integrity of a match.
SA Rugby has launched its own investigation into Curry’s claim, affirming their commitment to addressing the allegation seriously. They have pledged to engage with Mbonambi should the claim be substantiated.
At New Zealand’s press conference on Monday, All Blacks defence coach Scott McLeod noted that World Rugby would handle the matter. He emphasised the potential impact on South Africa, as Mbonambi plays a significant leadership role within the team, particularly in the absence of captain Siya Kolisi.
New Zealand are slight favourites with most bookmakers, however, a close contest is predicted. At the time of writing, bet365 have Zealand as 5/6 favourites with South Africa 6/5 and a draw after 80 minutes 20/1. Should Mbonambi be found guilty and then banned it would be a huge blow to the Springboks. As well as being the squad’s only specialist hooker he is a hugely influential character and a real leader. Punters need to monitor this situation ahead of making their picks for the final. Obviously Mbonambi is innocent until proven guilty, but should he be found guilty and subsequently suspended it could massively tip the balance in favour of the Kiwis.