The last chapter of his life was sad to see being played out in the press, but Joost van der Westhuizen will be forever remembered as a Springbok legend.
Joost van der Westhuizen Remembered as a Springbok Legend
The news of Van der Westhuizen’s passing in the early afternoon of 6 February 2017, was not unexpected. He had already exceeded the two year life expectancy that modern medicine predicted for him by 5 years, but the marks of respect we have seen from around the world show just how respected he was as firstly a rugby player and secondly as his personal crusade to highlight the plight of those who have been diagnosed with any form of motor neuron disease.
Joost ‘the Player’
The statistics speak for themselves. Van der Westhuizen played 89 Tests for the Springboks, scoring what was then a South African record of 38 tries. In addition to his Test caps, he played a further 22 tour matches for the Springboks.
It is hard to point out a weak point in his game and is rightly considered one of the very best players to pull the number 9 jersey over their head. He was a great distributor of the ball. Let’s not forget that he delivered the ball perfectly for Joel Stransky to execute the drop kick that won South Africa the 1995 Rugby World Cup. It was widely recognized that is kicking game was top class. On attack, he had the ability to unlock defenses and set up tries for himself and his team mates. What really set him apart from other scrumhalves was his unpredictability. When would he kick, pass or make a break?
His tackling ability may also have been a little under-rated. This tackle on Jonah Lomu in the same Rugby World Cup Final is regarded as one of the game’s defining moments. Some of the statistics quoted in this video are outdated, but reliving some of Van der Westhuizen’s tries reminds all of us what a special talent he was.
Life After Rugby
Van der Westhuizen joined the commentary team at SuperSport once his playing days were over. He had to vacate this position after the video scandal he was caught up in. His detractors will feel that this has destroyed his legacy. While we cannot condone what happened, it should not define the life of Joost van der Westhuizen. His contribution to South Africa as a rugby player and then as an ambassador for all those struggling with any form of motor neuron disease should be what he is remembered for.
Social Media Reacts
Twitter lit up minutes after it become known that Van der Westhuizen had passed on. The best tribute that LWOR can pay to him, is to share the words of his peers.
Probably one of the greatest Boks ever and a close friend has lost his battle rip my Buddy
‘Rest In Peace Joost’. Your work here is done. Fans hope you are having a great chat with Ruben Kruger and coach Kitch Christie, reminiscing about great Springbok victories.
A public memorial service for Joost van der Westhuizen will be held at Loftus Versveld, at 12:30 on Friday February 10, 2017.