Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi. SteveHaagSports/SteveHaag/INPHO
good faith

Case against Mbonambi dropped as World Rugby finds insufficient evidence

Tom Curry made two allegations that Mbonambi had used discriminatory language.

WORLD RUGBY WILL not proceed with charges against Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi after finding “insufficient evidence” to support two allegations that he used discriminatory language during matches.

England flanker Tom Curry accused Mbonambi of calling him a “white c***” during last weekend’s World Cup semi-final between the sides, while World Rugby has revealed that there was a second allegation made by Curry in recent days regarding a previous match between the teams in November 2022.

That meant Mbonambi was facing two allegations of using discriminatory language, with his place in this weekend’s World Cup final against New Zealand under threat.

SA Rugby says that Bongi denied the allegations from the outset. 

The experienced Mbonambi has been included in the Springboks team to face the All Blacks after World Rugby confirmed it will not proceed with charges.

World Rugby considered “all the available evidence, including match footage, audio and evidence from both teams” but has concluded that the evidence is insufficient to proceed, deeming that the matter is now closed “unless additional evidence comes to light.”

However, the game’s governing body underlined that it believes Curry made the allegations “in good faith” and said there is “no suggestion that the allegation was deliberately false or malicious.”

World Rugby also expressed its concern about the social media abuse that Mbonambi and Curry have both been subjected to in recent days.

The RFU has greeted World Rugby’s decision not to proceed with a disciplinary case against Mbonambi by saying it is “deeply disappointed.”

The RFU says Curry reported he was “racially abused” during last weekend’s game and that he was also “the victim of the same abuse, from the same player” back in the November clash between the sides.

With World Rugby not bringing this case before an independent disciplinary committee, the RFU says it is denying the opportunity to “hear Tom Curry’s voice and to independently assess his account of these serious events.”

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber welcomed the conclusion of the review into Curry’s allegations, having named Mbonambi in the Springboks team to face New Zealand on Saturday.

“We are fortunate in terms of support of a legal team and everybody who worked behind the scenes,” said Nienaber. “We were shielded from it.

“Where we stay, we are almost in our own bubble. For us, it was business as usual and we focused on rugby and that was taken care of in the background.”

World Rugby statement: 

“World Rugby has undertaken a review of allegations made by England’s Tom Curry in relation to the use of discriminatory language by South Africa’s Mbongeni Mbonambi during the England versus South Africa Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final on Saturday along with a further allegation brought forward in recent days about a previous match in the Autumn Nations Series 2022,” reads World Rugby’s statement.

“Any allegation of discrimination is taken extremely seriously by World Rugby, warranting a thorough investigation. Having considered all the available evidence, including match footage, audio and evidence from both teams, the governing body has determined that there is insufficient evidence at this time to proceed with charges. Therefore, the matter is deemed closed unless additional evidence comes to light.

“It is important to note that World Rugby accepts that Tom Curry made the allegations in good faith, and that there is no suggestion that the allegation was deliberately false or malicious.

“World Rugby is also concerned by the social media abuse that both players have been subjected to this week. There is no place in rugby or society for discrimination, abuse or hate speech, and World Rugby urges fans to embrace the sport’s values of respect, integrity and solidarity.”

RFU statement:

“The RFU fully support Tom Curry in raising the racially abusive behaviour he experienced whilst playing for England against South Africa.

“During the match between England and South Africa on Saturday 21st October 2023, Tom Curry reported to the referee that he has been racially abused by Mbongeni Mbonambi.

“The subsequent World Rugby investigation were informed by Tom Curry that he had also been the victim of the same abuse, from the same player, in the Autumn Test 2022. World Rugby have today announced their decision not to bring charges in respect of either incident.

“The RFU are deeply disappointed by the decision taken by World Rugby. 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.”

SA Rugby statement:

“SA Rugby has noted World Rugby’s announcement concerning their investigation into an incident arising from the Rugby World Cup semi-final and welcomes the decision that no further action will be taken.

“Any form of racism is abhorrent to SA Rugby and the Springbok team whose purpose is to do everything in its power to assist in uniting our diverse and multicultural nation.

“Bongi Mbonambi is an experienced, respected and decorated Test player and, needless to say, denied the allegations from the outset. SA Rugby has absolute faith in the honesty and integrity of Bongi.

“The team’s focus remains, as it has throughout the week, on Saturday’s match against New Zealand.

“SA Rugby will make no further comment on the matter.”