Joost van der Westhuizen. Picture: FACEBOOK
Joost van der Westhuizen. Picture: FACEBOOK

Former Springbok scrumhalf and captain Joost van der Westhuizen has died. He was 45.

This was confirmed on Monday by J9 Foundation‚ the organisation he helped establish to fight the disease‚ and a source at SA Rugby.

The foundation issued a short statement which 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 Xx."

He was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital on Saturday morning. He was placed on life support after his key organs began to fail late on Friday as a result of the effects of motor neuron disease — a condition he was diagnosed with in 2011.

The J9 foundation said he was “putting up an incredible fight” over the weekend.

“He really is our Superman!”

Van der Westhuizen had fought motor neuron disease (MND) for the past six years.

The disease causes the degeneration of cells that control muscle movements.

When he was diagnosed with a form of MND in 2011‚ at the age of 40‚ Van der Westhuizen was given two and a half years to live‚ yet he held on with the unwavering determination he showed on the field while playing for the Springboks‚ the Bulls and his beloved Blue Bulls.

Throughout his debilitating illness‚ which left him confined to a wheelchair and using a computer to communicate‚ Van der Westhuizen raised awareness about the disease and formed the charitable J9 Foundation to support his efforts.

“I had a choice to either stay at home and die or continue to live my life‚” he told The Telegraph in 2014.

“I have a platform and now I am using it to help with awareness of MND. They [the doctors] are going to tell them [MND patients] they have two to five years to live and that’s it – but you live as long as you want‚ as long as you are positive. They told me 24 months and I am now on 50.”

He had recently responded to reports in January this year that he was on an oxygen machine “for his survival”‚ telling Huisgenoot that the machine helped him breathe and sleep better.

“I’m doing well under the circumstances‚” he told the magazine. “I pray for everyone who is sick because with Jesus there can be miracles. While we’re still breathing‚ God has a plan for us.”
Star player

South Africans have paid tribute to a genius rugby player who represented his country 89 times during a decade-long career starting in 1993.

Born and raised in Pretoria‚ Van der Westhuizen was part of the South African team that emerged victorious from the 1995 Rugby World Cup victory in front of former president Nelson Mandela.

A respected leader‚ he went on to captain South Africa at the 1999 World Cup and was the most-capped player in Springbok history by the time of his international retirement in 2003.

In 2007‚ he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame – run by a charitable trust – and seven years later became a member of the World Rugby Hall of Fame when the trust’s structure merged with the International Rugby Board’s own hall of fame.

The highlights of his career as scrumhalf included World Cup appearances in 1995‚ 1999 and 2003; the 1998 Tri-Nations; and Currie Cup trophies in 1998 and 2002.

After his retirement from the sport and before he fell ill‚ he enjoyed a highly public profile in South Africa while working as a television pundit‚ though he became the target of celebrity magazines that reported on his extramarital liaisons and alleged drug use. He later admitted to some of those claims.

Van der Westhuizen lived in Johannesburg and is survived by his at-times estranged wife‚ singer Amor Vittone‚ a son and a daughter.

TMG Sport

TMG Sport has compiled this timeline of the former Springbok captain’s life:

TIMELINE:

-Born‚ February‚ 20‚ 1971.

-1977 – starts primary school at Laerskool Derdepoort.

-July 12‚ 1980 – attends first Springbok Test at Loftus when Boks lost 13-17 British & Irish Lions.

-1983‚ starts High School at FH Odendaal‚ excels at athletics and rugby.

-1987‚ influential in guiding FH Odendaal to its first Administrators Cup final. They lose 18-14 to Hugenote from Springs. Hugenote contain future Springboks Japie Mulder and Chris Rossouw. With Van der Westhuizen there are three future 1995 World Cup winners in the match.

-1989-92‚ plays for Tukkies.

- March 1992‚ makes provincial debut for Northern Transvaal against Transvaal in a ‘Night Series’ friendly.

-April 1992‚ first-class debut for Northern Transvaal against Eastern Transvaal.

-May 1992‚ makes Currie Cup debut against Transvaal.

-August 1992‚ plays for Junior Springboks against the touring All Blacks.

-April 1993‚ represents Bok sevens at the World Cup in Edinburgh.

-May 1993‚ makes Super 10 debut for Northern Transvaal -June/July 1993‚ unused substitute for the Springboks in both Tests against the touring French.

-July 1993‚ makes Bok debut against Western Australia in Perth‚ scoring four tries.

-October 1993‚ makes Test debut against Argentina and scores a try.

-June 1995‚ influential as Boks win World Cup on home soil.

-November 1995‚ marries first wife‚ Marlene Terblanche.

-1997/98 Boks win 17 Tests in a row‚ Joost plays in 14 of those matches.

-1998‚ wins first Currie Cup with the Blue Bulls.

-1999‚ becomes Bok captain and leads them to the World Cup.

-October 2002‚ captain’s Blue Bulls to Currie Cup title.

-October 2002‚ marries singer Amor Vittone.

-2003‚ plays in his third World Cup before retiring.

-2009‚ video emerges of a man having sex with a woman in film‚ there are claims it’s Joost. He denies these claims.

-2009‚ Joost admits he was the man in the video.

-2011‚ diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND).

-2012‚ divorced from Amor Vittone.

-2015‚ inducted in Rugby Hall of Fame.

-2017‚ Dies age 45.

- TMG Digital/TMG Sport

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