South Africa World Cup hero dies

World Cup winner Joost van der Westhuizen has died after a long battle with motor neurone disease at the age of 45.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 6th February 2017, 12:33 pm
Updated Monday, 6th February 2017, 1:36 pm
Van der Westhuizen - died at 45
Van der Westhuizen - died at 45

The former South Africa scrum-half was diagnosed with the condition in 2011 and was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital on Saturday morning.

A statement from his charity the J9 Foundation confirmed Van der Westhuizen’s death on Monday.

“It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Joost,” read the short statement, released on Facebook.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“He passed away in his home surrounded by his loved ones. He will be sorely missed.”

Van der Westhuizen became one of rugby’s greatest scrum-halves in a 10-year Springboks career which began in 1993 and spanned 89 caps.

The gritty competitor racked up 38 tries for South Africa and helped his nation lift the 1995 Rugby World Cup on home soil.

Van der Westhuizen had set up the J9 Foundation to aid others suffering motor neurone disease.

Former Ireland star Brian O’Driscoll was among the first to offer condolences on social media, tweeting: “RIP Joost van der Westhuizen. An incredible player and fighter to the end. The first of the new age 9’s”.

Statements from his J9 Foundation on Saturday evening and Sunday morning revealed Van der Westhuizen had been in a “critical but stable” condition in an intensive care unit.

Sunday morning’s update, though, added that he was “putting up an incredible fight” - and there was further encouragement later in the day.

A statement released around 5pm GMT on Sunday on the J9 Foundation’s Facebook page read: “Joost has been much better today however he is tired and been resting this afternoon.

“Thank you for the continued support for him and his family.”