England flank Tom Curry told referee Ben O’Keefe that Mbonambi had used a racial slur early in the match, and the man in the middle told the forward to not do anything about it - presumably for a citing commission to look into the matter after the clash.
Shortly after 11am on Monday, World Rugby released a statement confirming it was investigating the incident.
“World Rugby takes allegations of discriminatory behaviour extremely seriously,” read the statement.
“We can confirm that we are formally reviewing the allegation made by England’s Tom Curry in relation to the use of discriminatory language during the England versus South Africa Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final on Saturday.
“World Rugby will not be making further comment until the conclusion of the process.”
The Springboks won the semi-final 16-15, after mounting a stunning comeback as they trailed 15-6 during the last quarter of the match. It means the Springboks will now take on the All Blacks in the final on Saturday.
There is little in the way of precedents for verbal abuse during a game, therefore it is unclear if Mbonambi will cop a ban if charges are laid and/or he is found guilty. Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus will have a nervous wait in store as a result.
However, in a worst case scenario for the Springboks, if Mbonambi is not allowed to play the final - they will have to rely solely on Deon Fourie in the hooker position. Fourie is not a specialist hooker, but has been preparing to provide cover in the position after the injury to Malcolm Marx earlier in the tournament.
The Siya Kolisi-led Springboks opted to call up Handre Pollard as cover in the flyhalf position instead of another hooker, which has already paid dividends as the number 10’s accuracy from the kicking tee has been vital in the knockout stages of the competition.