Springbok legend Joost dies

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 12:33
Large joost van der westhuizen looks 800

BREAKING NEWS: Springbok legend Joost van der Westerhuizen has lost his battle to motor neuron disease and died on Monday, February 6.

On Saturday, his J9 Foundation revealed that he was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital in critical condition. The Foundation also revealed that he passed away at home, surrounded by his loved ones on Monday.

As soon as the news of his passing broke, tributes started pouring in from around the world.

The rugby fraternity has truly lost a legend at the tender age of 45.  

He leaves behind two children, Jordan (13) and Kylie (10), as well as his father Gustav, mother Mariana, and brothers Pieter and Gustav.

Van der Westhuizen, who has been fighting motor neuron disease since 2011, played 89 Tests for the Springboks between 1993 and 2003.

Known for being a big scrumhalf, Van der Westhuizen had an eye for a gap and an amazing ability to rip opposition defences apart.

Van der Westhuizen was a nominee for the prestigious SA Rugby Player of the Year Award six times during his career, in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999, while he was also a Young Player of the Year nominee in 1992.

When it comes to his international accolades. The scrumhalf was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007, and became a member of the World Rugby Hall of Fame when the International Hall was merged with the Hall of Fame in 2014.

He played 144 matches for the Blue Bulls between 1992 and 2002 and captained the men from Pretoria when they won the Currie Cup in 1998, as well as in 2002, his last season in the famous light blue jersey.

At Super Rugby level, Van der Westhuizen represented the Bulls 28 times between 1998 and 2003 – a number which would have been much higher had he not suffered from a number of serious injuries at the time.

Van der Westhuizen was diagnosed as suffering from MND early in 2011. Despite fighting this debilitating disease, he was actively involved in charity work across South Africa and outside our borders for fellow sufferers up until his death.

"Joost will be remembered as one of the greatest Springboks – not only of his generation but of all-time," said Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby.

"As a player, he lifted the Rugby World Cup, Tri-Nations and Currie Cup while establishing himself as one of the best scrumhalves world rugby has ever seen. He was the record holder for the most Test tries for the Springboks for more than 13 years and finished his international career with 38 Test tries.

"He also became an inspiration and hero to many fellow sufferers of this terrible disease as well as to those unaffected. We all marvelled at his bravery, his fortitude and his uncomplaining acceptance of this terrible burden.

"It’s a sad day for rugby in South Africa and across the globe as we say goodbye to a legend of the Springboks. Our condolences go to his family and friends at this sad, sad time,"

Alexander said that Van der Westhuizen was without peer at a time when the top teams in the world had great scrumhalves.
 
"He could do things no-one else could and it was his unpredictability as a scrumhalf that dazzled opponents and gave his supporters so much reason to cheer," said Alexander.
 
"Joost epitomised what it meant to represent South Africa on the rugby field and always showed a remarkable fighting spirit throughout his career, but also in recent years during his illness.
 
"He was a hero and a role model for so many young rugby players in the early years of professionalism and he taught a generation of South Africans what it meant to be a Springbok. His passion for his country and the Boks will always stand out and he will be sadly missed.
 
"To lose a Springbok legend at such a young age is very sad, but his memory will never die. I salute you Joost on behalf of South African rugby."
 
His domestic team, the Bulls, joined the rest in of the world in the outpouring of tributes.

Blue Bulls Company CEO, Barend van Graan said: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Joost van der Westhuizen, and our thoughts and condolences go out to his family, friends and the millions of fans that adored him.  Joost will forever be remembered as the warrior that terrified opposition on the field, and one that took on MND head on while raising massive awareness for the cause."

Although he suffered immense difficulties because of MND, he showed South Africa his fighting spirit through his foundation, the J9 Foundation, as he pioneered awareness of this dreaded disease.

Gert Wessel, President of the BBRU: "Joost was an individual with a ‘big heart’, both on and off the field. This showed in his approach to the game as he stood back and stepped aside for nothing in his playing. This tenacious attitude clearly came through in his battle against MND as well"

Gary Teichmann, the Sharks CEO, said he was fortunate to have played with and known Van der Westhuizen.
 
"Joost was a great team man and was an outstanding ambassador for South African rugby," Teichmann said.

"I will always cherish the memories we shared both on and off the field.
 
"Our sincere condolences are extended to the entire van der Westhuizen family on the loss of a son, brother, husband and father."

Golden Lions Rugby Union CEO Rudolf Straeuli, one of Van der Westhuizen's teammates in the 1995 World Cup Final, also paid tribute to the legend.

"The thoughts of the entire country are with his family," Straeuli said.

"He was a game changer whenever he stepped onto the field. On a personal level I played and coached with Joost and it is a huge loss. His family and close friends are in our thoughts," he said.

Johan Ackermann, coach of the Lions, also conveyed his condolences.

"I played with Joost from Under-20 to Springbok level and will always treasure the moments we shared," Ackermann said.

"He was always an inspiration and fighter on and off the field and one of the best players I ever played with or against. Our prayers are with the family."

The president of the GLRU, Kevin de Klerk, added: "It is always sad when the rugby world loses a former player. In this case, even more so, as Joost was a special player who was such a big part of the 1995 World Cup euphoria. He will stay on in our hearts forever."