A rugby legend who inspired a generation

As this is a dedicated travel, food and rugby blog, it’s with a heavy heart today I learnt one of my idols, Joost van der Westhuizen, the former South Africa captain, has died aged 45 after a seven-year battle with motor neurone disease (MND).

In my opinion and that of millions of rugby fans, Van der Westhuizen, was one of the greatest ever scrum-halves ever to grace the game and was one of the key players of the South Africa 1995 World Cup winning squad. He won 89 caps between 1993 and 2003 and scored 38 tries for his country. At 6ft 1in, he was a beast of a scrum half, whose quick hands were only matched by his physical game, which could destroy a backline.

A great example of his bravery on the pitch could be seen in the 1995 World Cup final against New Zealand when he tackled the man-beast Jonah Lomu, who until that point has been considered unstoppable and was having to be double marked by the South African tram. Just 22 metres from the try line, Joost tackled and brought down Lomu, a legend in his own lifetime, and the rest was history. A tackle many would tell their children in years to come, it inspired South Africa on to win the World Cup for the Rainbow Nation.

 

If you want to know about Joost, his life, career and what he hoped to achieve facing MND, check out this documentary on his life.

In one of the final interviews on UK TV, Joost went on BT Rugby Tonight and shared how he’s coping with MND and shares a thought provoking comment…

“Life is not measured by the number of years lived, but the number of memories created.” 

Below is an amazing short video of when Lomu went to visit Joost in South Africa…two icons, now sadly gone. The words Lomu uses, urging  Joost to keep fighting, whilst he also fighting his own kidney problems, were simply breathtaking.

Joost, you lived a life many could only dream about, while you faced your illness like a true hero. #RIPJoost #GoneTooSoon

Thanks for inspiring me to play rugby, strive to live the dream and not give up when faced with illness. I’m now even more committed to traveling to Japan.