Springboks World Cup winner Van der Westhuizen dies at 45

Springboks World Cup winner Van der Westhuizen dies at 45

Joost van der Westhuizen, who won the 1995 World Cup with South Africa as Nelson Mandela looked on, has died after a six-year-battle with motor neuron disease. He was 45.

SA Rugby announced the death on Monday.

The scrumhalf distinguished himself in the epic final with a scything tackle on Jonah Lomu, New Zealand’s colossal wing, and by delivering the pass to Joel Stransky for the winning dropped goal in extra time.

The emotional 15-12 victory helped rally South Africans of all colours behind a nation emerging from apartheid.

Newly elected President Mandela famously donned a Springbok jersey and delightedly waved clenched fists as captain Francois Pienaar lifted the Webb Ellis Cup. The drama inspired Clint Eastwood’s movie “Invictus.”

“South Africa has lost a legend and one of the best rugby players that the country has ever produced,” said South African President Jacob Zuma. “On behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa, our heartfelt condolences to Mr van der Westhuizen’s family. May his soul rest in peace.”

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said he would be remembered as one of the greatest Springboks. “He also became an inspiration and hero to many fellow sufferers of this terrible disease as well as to those unaffected. We all marveled at his bravery, his fortitude and his uncomplaining acceptance of this terrible burden.

“It’s a sad day for rugby in South Africa and across the globe as we say goodbye to a legend of the Springboks,” Alexander added. “Our condolences go to his family and friends at this sad, sad time.”

Uncommonly tall for a scrumhalf, standing over 6 feet (1.82 metres), Van der Westhuizen was fast and attack-minded, but also a bruiser who relished the physical confrontation of rugby. His 89 tests and 38 tries for South Africa were both national records when he retired in 2003.

He captained his country in 10 tests and played at three World Cups. In all, he played 111 games in Springbok green and gold.

“He was very quick, always knew where the gaps were and could create something out of nothing,” the South African Rugby Union said in its official biography when Van der Westhuizen retired.

Told by doctors in 2011 that MND might kill him within two years, Van der Westhuizen responded: “Stuff them. I will decide when I go.”

He used a wheel chair in his last years and dedicated himself to his young children and J9 foundation that helps MND sufferers.

He told interviewers he had come to terms with his disease. He also won admirers for his honesty in admitting to mistakes in his personal life.

Although a target of overseas clubs when rugby went professional after the ’95 World Cup, Van der Westhuizen never left his home team in Pretoria, where he was born, schooled and played all his provincial rugby for his beloved Blue Bulls team.

Gerald Imray, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Tech funding announced for post-secondary institutions in Kelowna

UBCO and Okanagan College are getting funding to expand their tech programs

Arbitrated settlement for Kelowna jail guards

Details of arbitration settlement in contract dispute not released

New boss at Kelowna’s Flair Airlines

Flair’s founder and president Jim Rogers steps down after selling shares in company

Okanagan nurse assists Rohingya refugees

Crystal Grymaloski volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse disaster response mission in Bangladesh

Accident at busy Kelowna intersection

There are reports of a two vehicle accident on Highway 97 leading through Kelowna

The snow capped hills around Carr’s Landing

Andre Paris has posted another drone video showcasing Lake Country’s beauty

Premier offers condolences to family of boy, 15, killed in Vancouver crossfire

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

VIDEO: Explorers uncover Canada’s deepest cave in Fernie

The cave, named Bisaro Anima, was confirmed to have broken the record on New Year’s Day

Canadian junior captain returns to Rockets lineup

Dillon Dube will be back in Kelowna’s lineup Wednesday night after world juniors and bout of flu

Waters: For Trump words speak louder than actions

U.S. president’s first year in office marked more by what he said than what he did

Letter: Many share Hodge’s thoughts on Trump

Kelowna letter-writer says Charlie Hodge was on the mark in his take on Donald Trump

Column: RRSP a good choice for first time buyers

Kelowna mortgage brokers examine the rules around using your RRSP as down payment

Community lends a hand after fire

Fundraiser to aid fire victim’s wife

Vernon to host largest Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in 2019

Games to be held Feb. 21-23, with more than 800 athletes expected to take part

Most Read