On Monday it was confirmed that Joost van der Westhuizen, a former springbok Captain died in Johannesburg after a prolonged illness.
The South African rugby legend has been battling with a form of Motor Neurone Disease(MND). A while ago he was reported to be fighting for his life at a Jo’burg hospital even though the resilient star countered it, saying he was “doing well under the circumstances”.
“It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Joost. He passed away in his home surrounded by his loved ones. He will be sorely missed.”– J9 foundation.
Motor Neurone Disease is a rare condition that affects adults of all ages. The disorder harms the motor nerves that send messages to the brain.
It makes the muscles too weak to carry out voluntary activities like speaking, walking, swallowing, and even general movement of the body.
Joost Van der Westhuizen battled with the neurological disorder since 2011 when he was diagnosed with a form of MND. The disease confined him to a wheel chair.
Against the 2 and a half years given to him to live, Joost surpassed doctors’ expectations an lived 1 and a half more years.
Joost played for the Springboks, the Bulls and the Blue Bulls.
With the same strength that he played the game, he also fought to stay alive while sensitizing the general public on the rare disease. To that effect he formed the J9 foundation.
“I had a choice to either stay at home and die or continue to live my life,”
“I have a platform and now I am using it to help with awareness of MND. They [the doctors] are going to tell them [MND patients] they have two to five years to live and that’s it – but you live as long as you want, as long as you are positive. They told me 24 months and I am now on 50.”– Joost (2014 Telegraph Interview).
In 2007, Joost was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. Playing as the scrumhalf he made international appearances such as the 1998 Tri-Nations, 3 World cups-1995, 1999 and 2003 and the Currie Cup trophies in 1998 and 2002.
Joost van der Westhuizen is survived by his wife, singer Amor Vittone, and 2 children-Jordan and Kylie. Amor shared the sad news and some heartfelt messages on Facebook.