Rugby World Cup rocked by ‘racism storm’ as South Africa star accused of slur

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England star Tom Curry alleged to referee Ben O’Keeffe that he was the subject of racist abuse during his side’s Rugby World Cup semi-finals defeat to South Africa. The flanker was overheard accusing South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi of calling him a ‘white c***’.

England were cruelly beaten 16-15 by the Springboks on Saturday night, with a late penalty from Handre Pollard proving decisive. Steve Borthwick’s side dominated proceedings and led for the majority of the match but ultimately fell short, with South Africa rallying late on to book their spot in the final.

The remarkable comeback will be fondly remembered by Springboks, though risks being overshadowed following allegations of racism in the match. The incident occurred just before the 30-minute mark, with England leading 9-3.

With the ball out of play, England star Curry approached O’Keeffe and can be overheard on the referee’s microphone asking: “Sir, sir, if their hooker calls me a white c***, what do I do?”

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O’Keeffe then replied: “Nothing, please. I will be on it.” It is unclear whether the referee’s response is in reference to Curry’s allegation but no further action was taken against South Africa’s Mbonambi and he was not approached by the New Zealand official. There is no audible evidence where the allegations of abuse can be heard.

Following the full-time whistle, Mbonambi appeared to refuse to shake Curry’s hand, despite congratulating other members of the England team for their performance. Speaking after the match, Curry was asked whether the South Africa player said something that he shouldn’t have, to which the Sale Sharks star replied: “Yeah, it does not need to be talked about.”

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England are able to submit a complaint to World Rugby in the 36 hours after the match, should they wish. It remains to be seen whether Borthwick’s side act upon the complaints of Curry or decide not to take any further action against Mbonambi.

South Africa forwards coach Deon Davids claimed that he was unaware of the alleged incident when speaking at the Springboks’ press conference on Sunday morning, insisting that he had no details about the matter. “I’m not aware of that,” said Davids. “I’m not aware of any comment, if it was discussed.  not sure what the comment was or when it was said. I don’t know.”

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