Joost van der Westhuizen’s unique legacy

Legendary Springbok rugby scrumhalf and captain, Joost van der Westhuizen, has died after a brave battle with a severe form of motor neuron disease (MND).

He had been fighting the disease since 2011 when he was diagnosed at the age of 40.

Van der Westhuizen was confined to a wheelchair after losing the use of his arms and legs and was only able to talk via a speech-generating device.

The J9 Foundation searching for a cure or cause

Despite the debilitating effects of the neurodegenerative disease, Van der Westhuizen devoted himself to aiding sufferers of the fatal disease through the formation of his J9 Foundation.

The organisation’s core objectives are to contribute to research and raise awareness, both locally and internationally, for MND, supporting efforts across the globe to find a cure or cause.

His legacy will live on through the work conducted by the J9 Foundation, while his place in the Springbok history books has long been secured.

One of the all-time rugby greats

Van der Westhuizen featured in three World Cups for the Boks in 1995, 1999 and 2003, while he formed part of the victorious Tri-Nations squad in 1998. He was also nominated for SA Rugby Player of the Year on six occasions (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999).

He retired in 2003 as one of the most highly regarded Springbok players ever, ending his career with a Test try tally of 38 (second on the all-time Springbok try-scoring list).

In the Springboks’ historic World Cup final win over the All Blacks in 1995, Van der Westhuizen completed a textbook tackle on a flying Jonah Lomu early in the game.

Watch Joost’s famous Lomu tackle.

In the months before Lomu passed away at the end of 2015, he paid a visit to Van der Westhuizen’s home and paid tribute to the scrumhalf who had done so well to keep him at bay at Ellis Park: “How do I know you Joost?” he asked. “I know you as the No 9 who tackled me and stopped me from scoring a try, and at the same time stopped us from winning a World Cup,” Lomu said with a laugh. “Promise me you’ll keep fighting, because I’ll keep praying for you.”

Beloved Blue Bull

Besides his heroics for the Boks, Van der Westhuizen loyally plied his trade for the Bulls from 1993 to 2002 (earning 144 Currie Cup caps and making 36 Super Rugby appearances), while leading the Bulls to the domestic trophy in 1998 and 2002.

He captained the Boks on 10 occasions, while also leading the Springbok Sevens side at the 1997 World Cup in Argentina.

Inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007, Van der Westhuizen may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.

Funeral at Loftus

The J9 Foundation confirmed that Van der Westhuizen’s funeral will be held at 12.30 on Friday, February 10 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

 

 

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