Tom Curry accuses Bongi Mbonambi of calling him a 'white c***'

England’s Tom Curry accuses South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi of calling him a ‘white c***’ in the Rugby World Cup semi-final with alleged racist slur picked up by the referee’s mic

  • There was a noticeable altercation between Tom Curry and Bongi Mbonambi at the end – it appeared the South African refused to shake his counterpart’s hand
  • Curry refused to elaborate to reporters on what was earlier said on the field 
  • READ – OLIVER HOLT: Never before have so many apologies been owed by so many to so few…  England came close to one of their greatest EVER upsets
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

England’s heroic exit from the World Cup has been soured by a potential racism storm, after flanker Tom Curry made a first-half complaint to referee Ben O’Keeffe at the Stade de France.

In the 28th minute of the national team’s agonising 16-15 defeat against South Africa on Saturday night, the Sale openside approached the New Zealand official and is heard to say over the ref mic: ‘Sir, sir, if their hooker calls me a white c**t, what do I do?’ 

O’Keeffe replied: ‘Nothing, please.’ 

The Springboks hooker was Bongi Mbonambi, who started the match and played the full 80 minutes, meaning no-one else occupied that position for the world champions throughout 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.

England flanker Tom Curry (left) made a complaint about the language used by South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi (right) in their World Cup semi-final, alleging he was called a ‘white c***’

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 c**t, what do I do?’

As rumours of an ugly exchange spread, Curry was questioned about it 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.

South Africa forwards coach Deon Davids was asked about the issue on Sunday morning and replied: ‘I’m not aware of that. I’m not aware of any comments. If it was discussed, I’m not sure what the comment was or when it was said. I don’t know.’ 

At the World Cup, there is a 36-hour window for the match citing officer to refer an incident for disciplinary investigation. 

England would have the option to request for an incident to be investigated.

England were only minutes away from booking their place in next weekend’s final, only for Handre Pollard’s late penalty to seal a dramatic South Africa win.

South Africa forward coach Deon Davids said he was not aware of any comments allegedly made by Mbonambi (right) during South Africa’s 16-15 win over England to reach the final

But for England Head Coach Steve Borthwick there was nothing but pride in his squad come the final whistle. 

For a team written off and derided before the tournament began, Borthwick has transformed this team and now has a foundation to build on moving forward. 

‘In that 23, we have seven players aged 25 or younger,’ he said. 

‘That is the most of any of the semi-finalists so we have a great blend of experience and young players. We are disappointed but immensely proud of these guys and we’ll build going forward.

‘We have a very smart group of players that are learning very quickly because we have had to do it very quickly.’ 

He added: ‘The opposition have had four years and we have had four months. I asked the players to approach the training differently and they have embraced that. 

‘We thought we were going to win tonight and we came here believing we would win. The players deserve enormous credit for that.

‘I think the tens of thousands of England fans watching here tonight and the millions watching at home will be very proud of their team.’

Handre Pollard’s late penalty saw South Africa book their spot in the final in dramatic fashion

Head coach Steve Borthwick still feels there is a positive outlook after transforming his team

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