Springboks rally around ‘great guy’ Bongi Mbonambi after racial slur allegation

Bongi Mbonambi is being investigated for an alleged racial slur

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South Africa players and coaches have defended Bongi Mbonambi as a “great guy” and a “family man” amid the Springboks hooker being investigated for an alleged racial slur during the Rugby World Cup semi-final win over England.

England flanker Tom Curry has alleged that Mbonambi called him a “white c***” during the defeat in Paris on Saturday evening, as South Africa edged to a dramatic 16-15 victory

After 23 minutes at the Stade de France, Curry could be heard on the referee’s microphone alerting official Ben O’Keeffe to a comment possibly made by Mbonambi at a ruck.

“Sir, if their hooker calls me a white c***, what do I do?” Curry inquired of O’Keeffe. “Nothing, please,” responded the official, before adding a few moments later, “I’ll be on it,” in what may have been an unrelated comment. The alleged incident itself could not be heard on the television broadcast.

World Rugby has since confirmed it is investigating the incident and will not be making any further comment until the conclusion of the process.

On Monday afternoon, in the first Springboks media activity since the allegations became public, scrum coach Daan Human and lock Jean Kelyn defended Mbonambi’s character, while refusing to comment on the specific incident.

“It’s being dealt with by World Rugby and South Africa Rugby, so from my side, I can’t comment,” began Human when first asked about the incident. “I’m focussing on the scrums. We had a good, positive training session, and nothing else came out. I can’t really comment on that.”

Bongi Mbonambi is being investigated for an alleged racial slur

However, when pushed on what Mbonambi is like as a person around the squad, Human was effusive in his praise of the front row.

“Bongi has been part of this group for the last six years,” added Human. “He’s a very important piece of the puzzle for us. He was starting in the last World Cup and our semi-final, so he’s very important to us, like all other players.

“He’s one of our leaders in our group. He’s a great guy, a family man, my kids always look after his kids when they come to the hotel. He’s a humble guy, down to earth, like all players who play for the Springboks.

“To be straightforward and honest with you, he’s a very calm guy, a well-spoken guy. I don’t want to go into it because we’ve got a World Cup final in six days’ time. I’m more concentrated on the forwards.”

Mbonambi is the only specialist hooker in the Springboks squad after the injured Malcolm Marx was replaced by fly half Handre Pollard earlier in the tournament.

Bongi Mbonambi played all 80 minutes of the Springboks’ semi-final win

He played all 80 minutes of the semi-final, and finished the game as captain once Siya Kolisi was substituted, although veteran back row Deon Fourie played hooker earlier in his career and flanker Marco van Staden has also filled in at the position in the past. So Human was unconcerned about South Africa being short-handed in the event of Mbonambi being found guilty and banned for the final.

“We’ve got three guys capable of playing hooker in the group,” he said. “We’re very comfortable having three hookers. We’re glad we have three hookers, which we’re supposed to have because going into a final you need to have two hookers in the squad.”

Lock Jean Kleyn was also asked about his relationship with Mbonambi, having played alongside him at club and international level, and was similarly glowing in his praise of the hooker.

“Bongi is a great guy,” stated Kleyn. “I’ve known him since we were playing at the Stormers together I think nine years ago. He’s a fantastic guy, a good individual.

“I’m not going to comment on that or justify it [the allegations]. All I’ll say is he’s a fantastic bloke. He’s a great guy, a passionate guy, a family man. He’s captained the Springboks a couple of times and he’s an upstanding guy, I don’t think there’s a fellow in the squad who doesn’t like him.”

The Springboks face the All Blacks in the World Cup final at the Stade de France on Saturday evening.

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