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Bongi Mbonambi responds to 'disrespectful' incident with referee

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Monday Mar 4, 2024

In the aftermath of the Sharks’ recent defeat to the Lions in the United Rugby Championship, captain Bongi Mbonambi has moved to clarify his actions towards referee Aimee Barrett-Theron. 

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The controversy emerged during a pivotal moment in the game when a try by the Sharks was disallowed due to a dangerous clearout at the ruck. With the team trailing 19-10, Mbonambi and his teammates were visibly disappointed by the decision. However, Mbonambi’s reaction towards Barrett-Theron came under much scrutiny following the match.

Mbonambi, who is not new to controversy, has insisted that his frustration stemmed from the intensity of the game and the team’s desire to perform. Despite criticism, Mbonambi asserts that he harboured “absolutely no disrespect” towards Barrett-Theron during the match.

TOPSHOT – South Africa’s hooker Bongi Mbonambi holds a shirt which translates “winning side” during the Springboks Champions trophy tour in Cape Town on November 3, 2023, after South Africa won the France 2023 Rugby World Cup final match against New Zealand. (Photo by Rodger Bosch / AFP) (Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)

Barrett-Theron had said during the match: “Bongi, can you walk with me please, this way.” before delving into the way the game was unfolding.

“Bongi may I speak please, listen I fully respect you and who you are and I am well aware that all of your players have probably played more games than I have refereed in the URC.

“But we are on the same field so if you could show me the same respect that I show you, that would be very much appreciated.”

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Fans were furious with the Springbok player at the time, with one person saying: “When the ref called the two captains together to explain her decision Mbonambi turned his back and walked off before she had barely started! Rude, disrespectful and that action alone worthy of a yellow card.”

The 33-year-old has since responded to the incident, saying: “As players we have to take a hard look at ourselves after this result. We cannot blame anyone else and have a lot of hard work ahead of us. I am an all-in type of player and sometimes my emotions may get the better of me.

“I have full respect for officials and the role they play within our sport. It was never my intention to come across as rude or difficult. I apologised to the referee at halftime and meant absolutely no disrespect.”

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