Joost van der Westhuizen was born and raised at the heart of Pretoria in 1971 by Gustav van der Westhuizen and Mariana van der Westhuizen, he went to school at Hoerskool F.H Odendaal where he was a great at rugby and athletics and at University of Pretoria where he obtained his Bachelor of Commerce degree. On the 4th of February he was admitted to the intensive Care Unit at the Fourways Life Hospital in Johannesburg where he got placed on a ventilator and died in his home surrounded by his family and close friends on the 6th of February 2017 at the age of 45. Public memorial service was on the 10th of February at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

On the 20th of February he would be turning 51 years old, he is still remembered as a Springbok icon who had so much zeal and intensity in the field. Professional rugby union player who played, participated in 3 Rugby World Cups, and made 89 appearances in his test matches for the national team scoring 38 tries Mr Joost Heystek van der Westhuizen is still remembered and celebrated for the great years he devoted himself into rugby and for his foundation.

He joined and played for the Junior Springboks in 1992, he also spent his entire career with South African side the Blue Bulls from 1993 to 2003. He played Super 12 for Blue Bulls as he was well known for finding and grasping the tiniest gaps in opposition defences and his willingness to move forward and join the attack (in rugby terms). His first international cap came when he was 22 years old against Argentina in Buenos Aires on the 1993 tour. He was captained South Africa’s Sevens team to the final at the 1997 Rugby World Cup Seven in Hong Kong in 1997, he was also part of the team that won South Africa’s first Tri-Nation’s series title in 1998 also got captained the Bulls to the 1998 Currie Cup.

November 2001, he became the first person to play one hundred matches for the Springboks and his selection for the 2003 World Cup made him the first person to represent South Africa at three finals. He then retired in 2003 November from the international rugby, at that point he was South Africa’s record test cap holder with 89, record test try scorer with 38 and 111 appearances for South Africa.

He was welcomed into the international Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007 and in 2015 he became a member of the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

Sadly, in May 2011, van der Westhuizen got diagnosed with motor neuron disease where some of diseases weakness got noticed in his right arm towards the end of 2008 and he was given between 2-5 years to live by his personal doctor, Dr Kelbrick. By 2013, he was using a wheelchair as the disease got worse every day, he then decided to set up a charitable organisation to support, raise awareness and fund called J9 Foundation. The Joost van der Westhuizen centre for Neurodegeneration is a virtual hub for networking global centres and clinicians to ignite and support South African research efforts.

By: Mamsi Nkosi.

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