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Tributes Flow In for Fallen Legend

  Rugby World Cup winner Joost van der Westhuizen has died at the age of 45. The former South African halfback was rushed to hospital last Saturday, with his key
08 Feb 2017 11:00
Tributes Flow In for Fallen Legend
(FILES) This file photo taken on November 01, 2003 shows South African scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen clearing the ball out of the scrum during the Rugby World Cup Pool C match between South Africa and Samoa at Lang Park in Brisbane South African rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen, who is battling motor neurone disease, is in a "critical condition" after he was rushed to hospital on February 4, 2017, his foundation said. The 45-year-old former scrum-half, a Springboks captain who won the 1995 World Cup, was diagnosed with the condition in 2011. The incurable disease which damages parts of the nervous system has left van der Westhuizen confined to a wheelchair and he was given two to five years to live when he was diagnosed. / AFP PHOTO / Greg Wood

 

Rugby World Cup winner Joost van der Westhuizen has died at the age of 45. The former South African halfback was rushed to hospital last Saturday, with his key organs beginning to fail having suffered motor neuron disease since 2011.

His J9 Foundation announced that he was in a critical condition in hospital two days’ ago, and on Sunday night issued an update to say that the former rugby player was “still fighting”. But another update yesterday confirmed that Van der Westhuizen had passed away.

A statement from the J9 Foundation read:“It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Joost. He passed away in his home surrounded by his loved ones. He will be sorely missed.”

Van der Westhuizen was part of the South African side that captured the nation’s imagination in 1995 when they won the Rugby World Cup on home soil, uniting the country when apartheid was still very much the focal point of South Africa. He played in the final, where Nelson Mandela presented the Webb Ellis Cup to teammate Francois Pienaar after the Springboks beat New Zealand 15-12 and he also played for his country in the 1999 and 2003 Rugby World Cups.

In 1997 he played for South Africa in the Sevens Rugby World Cup in Hong Kong where they lost to Fiji 24-21 in the final.

In 1999, he scored the opening try in the 44-21 defeat of England to knock them out of the competition, and he retired after the 2003 Rugby World Cup after making a then-record 89th appearance in the quarter-final defeat by the All Blacks, a feat since surpassed by Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, John Smit, Jean de Villiers and Percy Montgomery.

Van der Westhuizen is survived by his estranged wife, the Afrikaans singer and media personality Amor Vittone, and their two children Jordan and Kylie.

 

Here are tributes from some of the rugby stars that played with him during his career:

 

WAISALE SEREVI

(Sevens maestro and captained Fiji’s winning 1997 Sevens Rugby World Cup team)

“This morning at 6.30am, as I was getting ready to pick my wife from work, Junior ran down and said “Dad, did you hear something?

I said what’s that…Your friend Joost, that you always help his charity in Dubai has passed away.

For me, it was tough to take in. It’s a very sad day for me, the J9 Family and the rugby world, especially his wonderful family. I remember two months ago in Dubai at the Charity Dinner, the Fijian boys in the team sang ‘We shall overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of the Lord…’ and dedicated it to Joost and we sent it to him.

Joost replied and said.. “it’s so hard to type with tears flowing…” R.I.P LEGEND, my friend- thank you so much for all you’ve done for rugby. The Rugby world, SA Rugby, your friends and especially your family will miss you. Peace be with your family. Till we meet again on that glorious morning.” #LEGEND #respect #fighter #gentleman #hero.

 

FIKILE MBALULA

(South African Minister of Sport)

“ A great giant and warrior of South African rugby. The passing of Joost is a sad chapter in South African sporting history. His contribution to our national rugby team was immense. He leaves behind a generation of athletes who aspire for his legendary sportsmanship.

“We draw lessons from his fighting spirit in both the field playing for our national team and against motor neuron disease. South Africa is poorer without this great giant and warrior of South African rugby. I send my sincere condolences to his family, his friends and to the entire sport fraternity.”

 

TANA UMAGA

(Former All Blacks captain and Blues coach. He played seven times against Van der Westhuizen)

“He was just a competitor, a modern day halfback. He was one of the bigger halfbacks in his day and I just remember some of the tough tests he played and how he was constantly yapping at his team, but also the other team, and that competitive nature that was inherent in all the great halfbacks.

“He was such an integral part of any team he was part of. There was him, and then the likes of Justin Marshall who came round as a similar physical-type halfback. As things go the modern halfback changes and we’ve gone smaller and a lot nippier and quicker. But for that time and what everyone was looking for, he was at the forefront of that.

“He was definitely someone you had to plan for, he was that good. He made teams much better and much more dangerous when he was around.

“Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family, and the tough times they’ve had recently and for a pretty long period. We were all conscious and knowledgeable about his plight. It’s just another sad day for rugby worldwide.”

 

DAVID CAMPESE

(Legendary Australian Wallabies winger)

“Rugby world lost another great person and player. Joost … will be remembered for the great fight he had to fight. RIP my friend.”

 

EDDIE JONES

(England head coach. Also former Brumbies, Wallabies and Japan coach)

“A very good long-passer with a great kicking game, a terrific defender and a guy who really influenced the players. Having coached against him when he played for the Bulls, they were a completely different team with him playing and he will be sorely missed. You had to be very tight around the ruck when you played against him because he was a great sniper. He was such a big guy who had good pace and was difficult to defend against.”

 

JONNY WILKINSON

(Member of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winner)

“A guy I feared as an opponent, respected hugely as a player and will miss deeply as a very courageous human being.”

 

MORNE DU PLESSSIS

(Manager of 1995 World Cup-winning Springbok team)

“In a team talk I can still remember his eyes looking right through you with so much determination. He had this sparkling personality, you could still see it in his eyes even those last years.”

 

JOEL STRANSKY

(Springbok first five during the 1995 World Cup winning team)

“He’s been such a big part for so many people’s lives for such a long time.

“He fought so bravely. He was a naughty little imp- there was always chaos around him! I remember him crawling under the table and setting my shoelaces on fire.”

Feedback:  leonec@fijisun.com.fj

 

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