Ricochet News

Springbok legend, Joost van der Westhuizen, dies aged 45

By Marc Jacobson - Feb 6, 2017
Springbok legend, Joost van der Westhuizen, dies aged 45

At just the age of 45 (two weeks away from 46), legendary Springbok scrumhalf, Joost van der Westhuizen, after a long-term battle with the motor neuron disease (MND), died on Monday, 6th February, after being admitted to the ICU on Saturday 4th February.

In 2011, van der Westhuizen, was diagnosed with the most severe form of MND, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and lived three and half years longer than doctor’s predicted; due to his fighting spirit and tenacity for aiding operations to other sufferers of the disease through the J9 Foundation – a charity devoted to MND issues.

Van der Westhuizen became an active campaigner for the J9 Foundation and defied any odds against him, whose main objectives were to collaborate research and raise awareness for the disease, as well as to support efforts across the world for finding a cure and cause.

Joost’s legacy will forever be emblazoned as the best ever player to don the Springbok, and the Blue Bulls for that matter, jersey. Forever remembered especially, as one of the core players of the 1995 World Cup triumphant Springboks to stop the bulldozing late-Jonah Lomu from breaching their defence in the final and preventing a match-winning try late in the game, van der Westhuizen was a well-accomplished player all-round on the park.

He held the record until 2011 for the most Springbok tries ever scored (38), after which Bryan Habana surpassed against Namibia at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. For a scrumhalf, however, the contributions he made on attack and on the fringes of every ruck or maul, posed many threats against any opposition alike – deeming him as one of the greatest ever scrumhalves to wear the number nine jersey – this, the aforementioned defensive attributes aside.

Joost made his debut for the Springboks against Argentina in 1993 and managed to imprint his name throughout the rugby world for the legacy he left behind before retiring from the game after the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

He featured for the Springboks in three World Cups (1995 which the Springboks won, 1999 where the Springboks won the bronze and 2003 where the Springboks were quarter-finalists).

He was also one of the core players that formed the Springbok side that won the 1998 Tri Nations; which additionally, was the same side that won 17 consecutive tier one test wins – a record held just until last year (2016) when the All Blacks broke it and extended it to 18.

Astonishingly, in his 10 years playing for the Springboks, he was nominated for SA Rugby Player of the Year on six occasions (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999) and he also holds the record for the most test appearances for a Bok scrumhalf (87).

For a scrumhalf, who was very seldom injured and who always became the first choice for the green and gold number nine jersey for his entire international tenure, van der Westhuizen will forever be deemed a true rugby legend for the game.

Main Image: Joost van der Westhuizen late in his career during the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Joost van der Westhuizen making the try-saving tackle on reputable, Jonah Lomu, during the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.