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The South African Rugby Legends Association would like to express it’s profound sadness at the passing of one of the world’s greatest rugby icons, Joost van der Westhuizen, who, after a 6 year battle against Motor Neuron Disease, succumbed to his illness, passing away peacefully today.

“Joost was not just a South African rugby legend, but recognised worldwide as one of the best scrumhalves to have ever played the game”, said SARLA President Gavin Varejes.

“Much will be said about him over the coming days and weeks, about his incredible career, and all his amazing records, but for us at the SA Rugby Legends Association, we want to honour his fighting spirit and his willingness to give back to the game that he loved so much”, said Varejes.

Joost was involved in several of SARLA’s tours, appearances and charitable endeavours in South Africa and around the world, in Argentina and Scotland.

“The Argentine Legends tour would be the last rugby match he would ever play, and it was at this game that he noticed his passing skills were not up to scratch”, said Varejes.

A few months later, in 2011 he was diagnosed with MND and so began a new chapter in his life.

Joost, with the help of Gavin Varejes and SARLA, held a benefit dinner in November 2011 in celebration of his career and life, to help launch the J9 Foundation – a foundation established by Joost to help create further awareness about MND and to help fund the research of the disease.

The Foundation has done much in the 6 years to become one of the leading forces in MND awareness worldwide and has international recognition for their work.

“The legacy he has left behind is immense”, said Varejes. “It is something that will live on forever and, in honour of his determination and commitment, we will continue supporting the J9 Foundation in helping to find a cure for MND”.

“I was fortunate to have played with Joost and always respected the incredible intuition and talent he had for finding the gaps in the opposition’s defence and his incredible try scoring ability”, said SARLA CEO and rugby legend Stefan Terblanche.

“He was one of rugby’s greatest and no-one will ever replace or match his skill and talent”, said Terblanche.

Varejes went on to say that he was with Joost on Saturday and had a wonderful evening holding his hand and reminiscing. “I phoned Stefan who was with a group of Legends at the Cape Town 10’s and each of them were able to talk to Joost and send him wishes over the phone, I watched as his heart monitor increased in pace every time someone else came onto the phone, his fellow friends and teammates including Rob Louw, Pierre Ribbens, Gcobani Bobo and Thinus Delport, as well as South African Music star Kurt Darren who was performing on the night, it was a very special moment for all of us”, he said.

The SA Rugby Legends send their love, prayers and condolences to Joost’s family, especially his two children, who have stood alongside him bravely to help him fight the disease.

SA Rugby Legend Joost Van Der Westhuizen


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