South Africa hailed Bongi Mbonambi as a “great character” as World Rugby launched an investigation into Tom Curry’s allegation of racial abuse against the Springboks hooker.
The England flanker’s accusation that Mbonambi called him a “white c—” casts a huge shadow over the Springboks heading into the World Cup final against New Zealand on Saturday. World Rugby launched the investigation following a complaint from the Rugby Football Union and hope to conclude the evidence-gathering stage within 24 hours, examining audio and video footage in search of a ‘smoking gun’ to corroborate Curry’s claim against Mbonambi.
If any evidence was found then Mbonambi, who trained fully on Monday, would face a possible citing under law 9.12 that prohibits verbal abuse. South Africa have not yet taken the opportunity to deny the allegations and are cooperating with the World Rugby investigation. While not directly discussing the incident, scrum coach Daan Human paid tribute to the 32-year-old’s human qualities.
“He’s a great character,” Human said. “He’s down to earth, a very humble guy. He’s definitely a guy I would love to have in my team, in our team. That’s it, all I can say about him is he’s a great guy.
“Bongi has been part of this group over six years, he started in the last World Cup and he started in the semi-final so he is very important, like all the other players in our group.
“He is one of the leaders in our group and a great, great guy. I know his kids. My kids always look after his kids when they come to the hotel. He is a calm guy, a very calm guy, well-spoken.”
Second row Jean Kleyn added: “Bongi is a great guy. I have known him since we played together at the Stormers nine years ago. He is a fantastic guy. He has captained the Springboks now a couple of times and he’s an upstanding guy.”
Mbonambi is one of the Springboks’ vice-captains but his value as the only specialist hooker in the squad is even greater, having played the full 80 minutes against England. South Africa opted not to replace Malcolm Marx when he was injured with another hooker. Instead they have back-rowers Dean Fourie, who played hooker earlier in his career, and Marco van Staden as cover.