Windhoek-The world of rugby woke up yesterday to news of the death of the well-loved former Springbok rugby icon, Joost van der Westhuizen. The world acclaimed scrumhalf and IRB World cup winner died yesterday, aged 45, at the end of a long battle with motor neuron disease.
His J9 Foundation confirmed van der Westhuizen’s sad passing, adding that the ailing and retired rugby icon was rushed to hospital in a critical condition on Saturday. Despite stabilising temporarily and showing signs of acknowledging those around him, the likable former Springbok scrumhalf finally succumbed to his illness yesterday afternoon.
Van der Westhuizen, who was diagnosed with the illness in 2011, played 89 Tests for the Springboks between 1993 and 2003. He scored a then record-breaking 38 tries for the Springboks and is generally regarded as one of the finest scrumhalves in rugby history after helping the Boks to a historic triumph in the 1995 World Cup on home soil in their debut in world rugby’s showpiece.
Namibian rugby icon Andre Stoop joined the chorus of mourners who paid tributes to the departed rugby legend.
“It’s very sad indeed, the man suffered quite a lot and although death is always difficult to digest, one would just hope that he is now relieved from all the pain he went through. My sincere condolences to his family,” he said.
Sarel Losper: “What can one say about Joost? Apart from the fact he was a great rugby player he was such a strong character and never showed any signs of emotional or physical pain, as he weathered the storm. I vividly remember the day when he came to Windhoek, conducting some charity work for Cosmos Radio.”
Wanderers rugby club chairman Flip Louw said: “It’s not only South Africa, or Namibia, but the entire world of rugby has lost an irreplaceable icon. Without an iota of doubt Joost brought a new dimension to the number nine jersey. He was an inspiration to many young players. He might be gone, but he has certainly left a long lasting legacy as a world-class scrumhalf.”
Local rugby guru and former Federation rugby eight-man Corrie Mensah could also not heap enough praises on the departed rugby hero.
“Statistics don’t lie. Joost has left a long-lasting legacy in world rugby, as can be attested by his achievements and near-faultless performances on the field of play. May his soul rest in peace.”
Van der Westhuizen and his estranged Italian-born songbird spouse, Amor Vittone, had two children, son Jordan and daughter Kylie.
– Additional info: News24