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Bongi Mbonambi cleared to play for Springboks in Rugby World Cup final

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While World Rugby are still investigating the alleged incident, they say a conclusion cannot be reached until next week, and thus the South African No.2 is free to play in the final of the global showpiece.

South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi during the Rugby Captain’s Run, Ceva Campus, Stade André Moga, Bordeaux, France last month. Picture: SteveHaagSports, INPHO, Shutterstock (14102778u)

In a double dose of good news for the Springboks, key player Bongi Mbonambi has been freed to play in Saturday’s World Cup final against the All Blacks in Paris – and World Rugby has confirmed that both teams will play in their traditional strips.

Hooker Mbonambi was accused of a racial slur towards England player Tom Curry in last week’s semi-final.

And while World Rugby are still investigating the alleged incident, they say a conclusion cannot be reached until next week, and thus the South African No.2 is free to play in the final of the global showpiece.

Curry’s club team in England, Sale Sharks, have reported that he has received death threats since making the allegation, while some Bok fans have said Mbonambi was speaking Afrikaans on the pitch and that his words were lost in translation.

Yesterday, the Boks won a coin toss between the teams as to who gets the more luxurious ‘home’ change-room at the Stade de France and will be known as Team A.

World Rugby have also said that New Zealand will play in their traditional black strip, and the Boks will wear their green-and-gold jersey.

It was because of World Rugby’s sympathy towards colour-blind fans that the teams in the pool stages sometimes wore strange-looking strips that to some were simply outlandish – the Boks’ infamous ‘Checkers’ strip went down terribly with fans.

Bok assistant coach Felix Jones said from Paris yesterday that Mbonambi is raring to go.

He is crucial to the Bok cause because he is the only specialist hooker, after injured Malcolm Marx was replaced by a flyhalf in Handré Pollard.

“Bongi has played nearly 160 minutes (close to two full games) over the quarter- and semi-finals, but he is fine,” Irishman Jones said.

“Any player who is getting ready to play in a World Cup final won’t moan about how many minutes they’ve had. They will all be ready to go.”

Bok head coach Jacques Nienaber is scheduled to announce the match-23 today, and it will be interesting to see whether he makes any changes to the side that beat England 15-13 in the thrilling semi-final last Saturday in Paris.

The most debated selections will be scrumhalf and flyhalf, where Cobus Reinach and Manie Libbok are under pressure to retain their places ahead of Faf de Klerk and Pollard.

The other major factor will be the make-up of the substitutes bench. The Boks have often gone for six forwards and two backs, but opted for the traditional five-three split in favour of the forwards against England last weekend.

Kickoff for Saturday’s final is at 9pm South African time, and rain has been forecast for the French capital during the match.

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