PRETORIA – President Jacob Zuma on Friday declared a provincial official funeral for Springbok rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen.
Van der Westhuizen died on Monday after a lengthy battle with motor neurone disease, with his funeral, as well as a memorial service taking place on Friday.
In a statement, Zuma said Van der Westhuizen would be remembered for his “splendid talent and excellent leadership that he has displayed in the rugby national team and in the sports community at large, which made him one of the best rugby players that the country has ever produced”.
Zuma, on behalf of government and all South Africans, conveyed his heartfelt condolences to Van der Westhuizen’s family and the broader sports fraternity.
Zuma further ordered that the National Flag at all flag stations in Gauteng be flown at half-mast on Friday.
World Cup-winning captain and teammate Francois Pienaar was set to make a tribute to Van der Westhuizen at his public memorial service at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
Pienaar was set to be among a host of speakers listed on the programme, including Amore van der Westhuizen and SA minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula.
The casket of Van der Westhuizen was carried onto the field by members of the 1995 SA rugby world cup winning squad, led by Pienaar and manager Morne du Plessis. Also helping carry the casket were Krynauw Otto, Hennie le Roux, Joel Stransky, Hannes Strydom and Marius Hurter.
Earlier, a private service for close family and friends ended shortly after 11am, and the casket of Van der Westhuizen was escorted to Loftus.
Van der Westhuizen passed away on Monday after a long and courageous struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease (MND), for the past six years. He 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.
– African News Agency (ANA)