South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi has accused England of acting in an "unprofessional" manner following allegations that he racially abused Tom Curry during last month's Rugby World Cup semi-final. World Rugby has stated that there is "insufficient evidence" to support Curry's claim that he was called a "white cunt" by Mbonambi during the match in Paris, as told to referee Ben O'Keeffe. Mbonambi has explained that a "misunderstanding" occurred because Curry failed to realize that he was speaking Afrikaans, a common practice among the Springboks to prevent opponents from understanding their messages.
Expressing his disappointment, Mbonambi told BBC Sport Africa, "I think it is a very sad thing when you live in a first world country like England, and you think the rest of the world speaks English. It was unprofessional on their part. They could have easily gone online and used an English dictionary to translate the word from Afrikaans. People in South Africa understood [what I said], but obviously it was misunderstood on their side. I'm glad that World Rugby took care of it and now it's all in the past. But I want to make it clear, I have never racially insulted him."
While World Rugby has emphasized that Curry made the allegation in good faith, they have also stated that there is no suggestion of it being "deliberately false or malicious". Nevertheless, both the Rugby Football Union and England's head coach, Steve Borthwick, have criticized the governing body for not granting Curry an opportunity to "have his voice heard".
Since the alleged incident, both players have faced online abuse, prompting Curry's club, Sale Sharks, to express their disgust at the criticism directed towards him.
It's important to address such allegations seriously and thoroughly investigate them. The impact of racism in any environment, including sport, cannot be overlooked. It is crucial for all parties involved to demonstrate empathy, understanding, and respect in discussing these matters. Communication can sometimes be misinterpreted, particularly when language barriers are involved, highlighting the need for open dialogue and education around cultural differences within the global sporting community.