CAPE TOWN – The Bulls were saddened to learn of the passing on Monday of former Springbok and Bulls stalwart Joost van der Westhuizen after a courageous six-year fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the most severe form of motor neurone disease.
Van der Westhuizen changed the way scrumhalves played the game with his sniping runs, solid defensive work and his ability to sniff out the try line (scoring 71 tries for the Blue Bulls, and 6 for the Super Rugby franchise). He was such an illustrious talent that he held the Springbok record for most tries scored until Bryan Habana broke it in 2011.
Van der Westhuizen made his debut for the Blue Bulls in 1992 and went on to earn 144 Currie Cup caps and 26 Super Rugby appearances. He captained the men from Pretoria on 38 occasions and led the Northern Gauteng union to two Currie Cup victories in 1998 and 2002.
At Springbok level, he was involved in three World Cup campaigns including the 1995 edition where he put in a heart-stopping tackle on All Black wing Jonah Lomu that prevented a certain try. He captained the Springboks in 10 Tests and represented the Springbok Sevens team as well.
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 career. His tenacious attitude clearly came through in his battle against MND as well.”
– African News Agency (ANA)