South Africa prepares for its Rugby World Cup final against arch-rivals, New Zealand on Saturday, the Springboks face a significant distraction.
Hooker, Bongi Mbonambi, is facing a World Rugby investigation into allegations that he directed a racial slur against England flank Tom Curry during their tight semi-finals game.
Springbok management has issued a statement saying they were aware of the allegations and were taking them seriously.
As the investigation continues, Mbonambi’s teammates have praised his character.
“Bongi’s a great guy. I’ve known him since we played together at the Stormers. I think nine years ago,” said lock Jean Kleyn.
“He’s a fantastic guy. He’s a good individual. But to be honest, I’m not really even going to comment on that. All I’ll say is he’s a fantastic bloke.”
Mbonambi is the only recognised hooker in the Bok squad.
As World Rugby reviews the allegations, the Boks are continue preparations for the final, with scrum coach, Daan Human, commenting that the All Blacks are good in all departments.
“But to be fairly honest, coming scrum time I can assure you they’re much better. They’re well prepared. They have got a great pack of forwards, and obviously, they will use it to their advantage,” he said.
While sanctions are rarely imposed on players for words spoken on the pitch, if World Rugby finds grounds to take disciplinary action, Mbonambi could be suspended.
South Africa is bidding to become only the second side in Rugby World Cup history to successfully defend the title, previously achieved by New Zealand in 2015 .