South African newspapers have expressed relief after World Rugby closed an investigation into hooker Bongi Mbonambi, clearing him to play in the Rugby World Cup final.
Mbonambi had been placed under investigation by the governing body following a complaint made by England’s Tom Curry during last weekend’s semi-final in Paris.
Curry complained that Mbonambi had called him a ‘white ****’ during the match, where South Africa emerged as 16-15 winners.
World Rugby confirmed England had made an additional complaint that Curry had been abused by Mbonambi in an Autumn Nations match last year.
The governing body announced on Friday that it was closing the probe due to ‘insufficient evidence’.
South African media expressed ‘relief’ with Mbonambi cleared to play in the World Cup final
World Rugby closed an investigation into claims Bongi Mbonambi, left, abused Tom Curry
Mbonambi has been cleared to play in the World Cup final against New Zealand on Saturday
IOL responded to the news with the headline ‘Relief! Springboks get green light from World Rugby as Bongi Mbonambi cleared on all allegations’.
The headline reflected fears from South Africa that Mbonambi could be sanctioned prior to the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday.
Mbonambi is the only specialist hooker in South Africa’s squad, causing the nation to have been sweating on his potential absence.
Times Live opened their coverage of the decision by stating that ‘Bongi Mbonambi is off the hook’.
News24 said that World Rugby had ‘absolved’ the 32-year-old of the racial slur allegation, stating that the ‘exoneration paved the way for Mbonambi to start at hooker’ against New Zealand.
Mbonambi, who has won 67 caps for his nation, has been named in South Africa’s starting team for Saturday’s final at the Stade de France.
Head coach Jacques Nienaber named the most experienced South Africa side in history, as the Springboks seek to retain the World Cup.
Half-backs Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard have replaced Cobus Reinach and Manie Libbok in the starting team.
England have reacted angrily to World Rugby closing the investigation, with their union issuing a strongly worded statement.
South Africa had been sweating on Mbonambi’s availability as the only hooker in their squad
Jacques Nienaber named Mbonambi in South Africa’s team as they bid to retain the World Cup
The RFU gave Curry their full support and criticised the decision to close the investigation
‘The RFU are deeply disappointed by the decision taken by World Rugby,’ the statement read.
‘The decision not to put the evidence before an Independent Disciplinary Panel has denied the disciplinary process the opportunity to hear Tom Curry’s voice and to independently assess his account of these serious events, together with the other available evidence.
‘In their continued full support of Tom, the RFU together with the England squad, condemn the disgusting abuse he and his family has received on social media as a result of his having had the courage to put unacceptable behaviour that has no place in society or on the rugby field, in the public eye.
‘Abuse of any kind is not acceptable and goes against the core values of rugby. It is important that it is safe and acceptable for everyone involved in rugby union to raise concerns, and the RFU continue to encourage everyone to report any unacceptable behaviour in the game.’