Amid allegations of an alleged racial slur during the Rugby World Cup semi-final, South Africa’s hooker, Bongi Mbonambi, has remained focused and committed to his training, according to behind-the-scenes reports.
The controversy erupted when Mbonambi was accused of using racialized language directed at England’s flanker, Tom Curry, during the game. Tom Curry promptly reported his concerns to the referee, Ben O’Keeffe, who had picked up the comments through his microphone. World Rugby is now conducting an investigation into the incident, making it a focal point of discussions during Rugby World Cup final week.
South Africa’s assistant coach, Daan Human, addressed the issue during a press conference but refrained from providing any specific comments, stating, “It’s being dealt with by World Rugby and South Africa Rugby at the moment. From our side, I really can’t comment on something like that.”
Human did, however, offer insight into Mbonambi’s demeanor during this challenging period. He explained, “He had a perfect training this afternoon, well not perfect but we strive to have a perfect training. Bongi has been part of this group for the last six years. He is a very important piece of our puzzle, he is definitely very important to us like all the other players.”
Human emphasized that Mbonambi is considered a leader within the team and highlighted his character as a great family man and a dedicated worker. He noted, “He is definitely one of our leaders in the group as well, a great guy. A great family man, and I know his kids always look after my kids when they come to the hotel. He is a very humble guy, down to earth and a very hard worker like all the other players, which they should be if they want to play for the Springboks.”
Human dismissed the notion that Mbonambi was shocked by the accusations, suggesting that he remains composed despite the situation. He stated, “He is a calm guy. He is well-spoken, and I don’t want to actually go into it because we have a World Cup final in six days’ time. Like I said, I am more concentrated on the forwards.”
South Africa appears confident in their hooker position, even with Mbonambi as the sole specialist hooker left in the squad after Malcolm Marx’s withdrawal due to injury in September. Human stated, “I can tell you one thing, we have three hookers [including Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden] in the group. Three guys who are capable of playing hooker, so we are very comfortable having three hookers. If you want to go into a final, you must have two hookers.”
Jean Kleyn, a Springboks lock, spoke highly of Mbonambi, referring to him as a “great guy.” However, he refrained from commenting directly on the allegations, saying, “I’m not going to comment on it, I’m not going to justify it.” He commended Mbonambi’s leadership and character, stating, “Passionate guy, a family man. He has captained the Springboks a few times now. He is an upstanding guy, I don’t think there’s a fella in the squad who doesn’t like him.”
As the investigation unfolds, Mbonambi’s resilience and commitment to his role as a key figure within the team remain steadfast. South Africa, amidst the controversy, is gearing up for a World Cup final that promises to be a monumental clash.