Having just landed back home, I’ve just heard the news of the passing of former South African scrum half and captain Joost van der Westhuizen. Joost had been suffering from motor neurone disease since 2011 and I knew he took a turn for the worse before heading to Italy.
I first saw Joost play for South Africa against Wales in 1994 and he already had the hallmarks of a formidable player. He was instrumental in the boks winning the World Cup in 1995 but couldn’t hold out the touring Lions in 1997.
He never lost against Wales, missing the 1999 losing game, and the last time I saw him play close up was the November 2000 game where he scored the winning try.
He had many a battle in the Tri-Nations with George Gregan and was a true legend of the sport. He was definitely one of the finest scrum-halves in the history of the game; big, strong and powerful, very much in the mould of Wales’ Terry Holmes.
Through his J9 Foundation he became an inspiration and hero to many fellow sufferers. It’s not only a sad day for rugby in South Africa but across the rugby world.