South Africa fans have claimed Bongi Mbonambi could have been speaking in Afrikaans after being accused of calling Tom Curry a ‘white ****’ during their 16-15 Rugby World Cup semi-final victory on Saturday.
England flanker Curry complained to referee Ben O’Keeffe following the alleged incident at the Stade de France, before World Rugby later launched an investigation.
Curry said: ‘Sir, sir, if their hooker calls me a white ****, what do I do?’ O’Keeffe replied: ‘Nothing, please.’ The incident was picked up by microphones in the 28th minute of the game.
After the final whistle, there was a noticeable altercation between Curry and the 32-year-old Mbonambi, who appeared to refuse to shake the England forward’s hand and marched off down the tunnel.
However, some supporters in South Africa believe Mbonambi had been misheard and may have been speaking in Afrikaans. The Springboks often speak Afrikaans to hide their plans from opponents. Their fans suggest the hooker may have been saying ‘wit kant’ – which translates to ‘white side’ – indicating the colour England were playing in on the day.
Some South Africa fans believe Bongi Mbonambi (right) was lost in translation after England’s Tom Curry (L) accused him of calling him a ‘white ****’ in their World Cup semi-final
Supporters suggested he was saying ‘wit kant’, which translates in Afrikaans as ‘white side’
In the 28th minute, Curry (seen right) approached referee Ben O’Keefe and is heard to say over the referee’s microphone: ‘Sir, sir, if their hooker calls me a white ****, what do I do?’
A report from South African outlet Times Live added that the word **** is not as popularly used in South Africa as it is in the UK – and that many of the country’s nationals find it hard to believe he would have uttered such a racist remark.
One fan said on Twitter: ‘Lost in translation… ‘wit kant’ – white side. Does this mean Bongi spoke Afrikaans to Curry saying, ‘Ky is aan die wit kant / you are on the white side’.
Another wrote: ‘Wit kant means white side – as in the side that’s wearing the all white kit. Glad the case is closed.’
‘He said ‘WIT KANT,’ read another post. ‘England were wearing white and he said in Afrikaans, Tom Curry must stay on the “white side”.’
It came as Mbonambi was seen in training for the first time since his exchange with Curry as South Africa players geared up for their final against New Zealand in Paris on Saturday evening.
Curry had been questioned about the incident in the post-match ‘mixed zone’ where interviews are conducted.
Asked if Mbonambi had said something he shouldn’t have said, Curry said: ‘Yeah.’ He refused to elaborate on what had been said.
When asked if the matter had been cleared up at the end, Curry said: ‘No. It doesn’t need to be talked about.’
He was then asked whether any alleged comments were just a reflection of a tough game and said nothing, but was visibly angry and shook his head.
A statement released by World Rugby – the global governing body – confirmed it would look into the alleged incident, saying: ‘World Rugby takes allegations of discriminatory behaviour extremely seriously.
Mbonambi was pictured for the first time since his altercation with Curry as he trained with South Africa ahead of their Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand
World Rugby launched an investigation into the incident after the RFU lodged a complaint
‘We can confirm that we are formally reviewing the allegation made by England’s Tom Curry in relation to the use of discriminatory language during the England versus South Africa Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final on Saturday.
‘World Rugby will not be making any further comment until the conclusion of the process.’
Mail Sport understands that the RFU lodged a complaint with the tournament authorities, in relation to the alleged outburst by Mbonambi.
After the review was announced, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman told reporters: ‘It is rightly an issue that needs to be looked at very carefully by World Rugby and we await their response.’