South African Rugby Legend Dies Ages 45

Springbok rugby legend, Joost van der Westhuizen, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2011, has died aged 45.

South African Rugby Legend Dies Ages 45

Scott Hastings, Joost van der Westhuizen and Scott Wilson (Communication consultant and former Forth One DJ)

Posted : 06/02/2017

Scott Hastings, former Scotland, British and Irish Lions rugby player, formed a close bond with Joost during his rugby career. The patron of MND Scotland, said:

“It was terribly sad news to hear that Joost had lost his fight against MND. Having played against him he was undoubtedly one of the most outstanding scrum halves of all time. As a member of the South African team that won the 1995 Rugby World Cup his contribution to the game on and off the field was immense.

“As a Patron of MND Scotland, I made contact with him when I first heard of his diagnosis and invited him to come to Scotland in November 2013 to learn of the work being done by the MND community and to visit the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research in Edinburgh.

“The trip coincided with the Scotland v South Africa rugby international and he was able to meet with MND Scotland Royal Patron, HRH Princes Anne who is also the Patron of Scottish Rugby. On his return to South Africa, Joost's own charity, the J9 Foundation, then set about helping and supporting others with MND.

“When Joost left these shores, we shared a very special moment. On a sign outside the restaurant that we had dinner at were the words; "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened". These words seem entirely appropriate as we remember a very special person.”

MND Scotland chief executive, Craig Stockton, said: “Through his establishment of the J9 foundation in South Africa, Joost significantly increased the awareness of MND in his home country and across the world of rugby. He battled hard on the rugby field and fought MND just as hard. Joost was a young, fit, active dad in his prime when he was diagnosed with this progressive terminal illness.

“MND can rob someone of their ability to walk, talk, eat, speak and breathe unaided. We need to find effective treatments and ultimately a cure for this condition.

“Our thoughts are with Joost’s family and friends at this sad time.”

Read more on BBC Sport.

Photo credit: David Gibson - Fotosport