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High-powered legal team ended Bongi circus and trial by media

REACTION: It was a high-powered legal team, hired by the Springboks, that helped end the Bongi Mbonambi saga – which turned into a trial-by-media circus.


World Rugby on Thursday released a statement – following their investigation into allegations made by England’s Tom Curry in relation to the use of discriminatory language – clearing South African hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi.

The announcement finally brings to an end the saga – which has dominated headlines around the world ahead of this weekend’s World Cup Final between the Boks and All Blacks.

However, the Rugby Football Union attempted to drag the issue on for a while longer, issuing a statement making clear their ‘deep disappointment’ with the decision taken by World Rugby.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, at a media briefing to answer questions about the Final, revealed that it was the high-powered legal team that sealed the deal for the team and the hooker.

“The legal people worked hard behind the scenes,” Nienaber told @rugby365com, adding that the team was ‘sheltered’ from the media circus.

“We were removed from the drama at our base on the [Le Domaine des Vanneaux Hôtel and] golf spa,” he said of the estate near the quaint commune of Presles north of Paris.


“We could just focus on our job, preparing for the Final,” the coach added.

The Boks have a high-profile lawyer, Attie Heyns, as part of their management team at the World Cup.

He has been spotted at training sessions and helped with Mbonambi’s defence.

Assisting him were a number of specialists – a visual specialist, a verbal specialist, a forwards specialist and a backs specialist.


The self-same British media hacks that drove the agenda against Mbonambi through the week attempted to turn Curry into a victim – focusing on the online (verbal) abuse he received, while they ignored the death threats issued to scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and his family, as well as the online abuse suffered by Mbonambi.

Bok captain Siya Kolisi slammed the online abuse of players’ families, confirming the abuse his own teammates had suffered.

“We, as players, can handle it,” Kolisi said, adding: “However, it is hard when it comes to our families – as was the case with the death threats of Cobus Reinach.”

(Article continues below Siya Kolisi statement…)

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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.

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.

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.

SARU statement

The South African Rugby Union noted World Rugby’s announcement concerning their investigation into an incident arising from the World Cup semifinal 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.


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