RIP Joost

In 1995, the Springboks defied all expectations and had made it through to the final of the Rugby World Cup – in their first ever appearance at the tournament.

Facing them in the final was one of the best All Black teams ever assembled.

Led up front by the indomitable Sean Fitzpatrick with a pack that included the likes of Zinzan Brooke, Josh Kronfeld and Ian Jones – well able to feed quality ball to a backline manned by superstar Jonah Lomu, the best flyhalf in the world in Andrew Mehrtens and a center combination of Frank Bunce and Walter Little.

Jonah Lomu had destroyed England in a wrecking ball performance in the semi final and seemed totally unstoppable by any team at the Rugby World Cup.

That was until Jonah sliced through the Springbok backline and was well on his way to scoring – then Joost van der Westhuizen tackled him head on and brought the big man to the ground.

This tackle seemed to galvanize the Springboks, as well as the packed crowd at the old Ellis Park stadium, who suddenly started to believe the All Blacks could be beaten.

The Boks all started lining up Jonah, with Japie Mulder putting in another huge tackle on the big New Zealand winger.

The game was on a knife edge throughout and Joost was again involved in extra time when he rifled off a pass to Joel Stransky who slotted a drop kick to win the World Cup for South Africa.

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Joost went on to win 89 test caps and scored 38 tries in an international career that spanned a decade from 1993 to 2003.

He captained the Springboks on 10 occasions and played in three World Cup tournaments.

Joost was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007, then to the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2014.

In 2011, Van der Westhuizen announced that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease (MND).

On 4 February 2017 he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at the Fourways Life Hospital in Johannesburg where he was placed on a ventilator.

Joost died on 6 February 2017 at the age of 45 years.

Truewan Jan 2017