South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi will start Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand after a ruling there was “insufficient evidence” he used a racial slur towards Tom Curry.
England flanker Curry said he was abused during the Springboks’ 16-15 semi-final victory last Saturday. Governing body World Rugby said the case is “closed unless additional evidence comes to light”.
England are “deeply disappointed” by the decision not to charge Mbonambi. South Africa face the All Blacks in the showpiece event in France.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) said Curry had told the investigation he had been abused by Mbonambi during England’s match against South Africa last November.
It also said World Rugby’s decision not to put the evidence before an independent disciplinary panel “denied the opportunity” to hear Curry’s account.
The flanker has suffered online abuse for reporting the incident, which England captain Owen Farrell described as “unacceptable”.
An RFU statement read: “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.”
World Rugby said it was “concerned” by the online abuse both players had suffered.
“It is important to note that World Rugby accepts that Tom Curry made the allegations in good faith, and that there is no suggestion that the allegation was deliberately false or malicious,” a statement read.
Springboks captain Siya Kolisi says he has reached out to Curry and hopes the abuse will stop.
“I have spoken to him, I sent him a message,” Kolisi said. “He is someone I respect. We can take it as players. When it comes to you, it’s fine, but when families are involved it’s different. I have let him know we are supporting him and are thinking of him.”
Head coach Jacques Nienaber has named the most experienced South Africa team ever to face the All Blacks in Paris on Saturday.
Nienaber makes two changes to the XV that started the semi-final win over England, with half-backs Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard replacing Cobus Reinach and Manie Libbok.
Fly-half Pollard came on as a surprise replacement for Libbok after just 31 minutes of the semi-final, and kicked a late match-winning penalty.
Both Reinach and Libbok drop out of the matchday squad completely, with Nienaber opting for a 7-1 split of forwards to backs on the bench. Willie le Roux is the only back replacement.
It is the second time South Africa have attempted the 7-1 split at the tournament, having done so for their 13-8 defeat by Ireland in the pool stage.
On to the bench comes lock Jean Kleyn, who represented Ireland at the 2019 World Cup before switching allegiances under World Rugby’s birthright amendment rule, and number eight Jasper Wiese. Both players are yet to feature in the knockout stages, as South Africa stuck with the same 23 players against France and England.
New Zealand and South Africa are both bidding to become the first nation to win the World Cup for a fourth time.
South Africa: Willemse; Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe; Pollard, De Klerk; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Fourie, Nche, Nyakane, Kleyn, Snyman, Smith, Wiese, Le Roux.