Players pay tribute to Joost
REACTION: MyPlayers, the Rugby Players' Organisation, through its members paid tribute to Springbok great Joost van der Westhuizen ahead of his funeral and memorial service on Friday in Pretoria.
A nation was in mourning on Monday following the announcement that former Springbok scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen had passed away following his battle against motor neuron disease (MND). He's been fighting MND for six years, during which he played an important ambassadorship role, creating awareness and funding for others affected.
Van der Westhuizen was 45 and leaves behind two children, Jordan (13) and Kylie (10), as well as his father Gustav, mother Mariana, and brothers Pieter and Gustav.
Looking back to his playing days, he made his provincial debut for the Blue Bulls in 1992 and played the first of his 89 Springbok Tests the next year, on November 6, 1993 against Argentina in Buenos Aires. His last Test was on November 8, 2003 against New Zealand in Melbourne at his third Rugby World Cup tournament.
Apart from 89 Tests, Van der Westhuizen played a further 22 tour matches for the Springboks for a total of 111 appearances in Green and Gold. He scored 56 tries in total for the Springboks, which was finally overtaken by Bryan Habana in 2014. He also captained the Boks in 10 Tests.
MyPlayers spoke to several players across the country, who expressed their sympathies.
Pumas scrumhalf and player executive committee member Kevin Luiters said: "I will always remember Joost for his tenacity and willingness to never give up in the Springbok Jersey. One highlight that will always standout for me was that moment against England when he broke the five-metre just after the line-out. He managed to get past with a chip-and-chase effort and managed to collect to score the try. You don't make them like that anymore."
Springbok and Cheetahs flank Teboho "Oupa" Mohoje, who serves on the MyPlayers board said: "Joost was a hero to us growing up, even in communities that weren't familiar with rugby, whenever the Springboks were mentioned, the name "Joost van der Westhuizen" would come up simply because of how he represented his country."
Trustee of the Players' Trust and Springbok No.8 Warren Whiteley added: "Joost was a hero! The world's best scrumhalf and a fighter until the end. Like David, God has used him mightily."