Joost: The legacy of a champion


File: Former South African scrum-half Joost Van Der Westhuizen

JOHANNESBURG – Characterised as ultra-competitive and tenacious as a scrum-half, Joost van der Westhuizen’s legendary rugby career will not soon be forgotten.

Standing at 1,85m tall, he without doubt changed the scrumhalf position and made it his own in every way.

His ability to stay low to the ground and find gaps in opposition defences is unparalleled and he deserves being hailed as the best scrum-half in SA Rugby history.

Photo: Former South African scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen clears the ball out of the scrum during the Rugby World Cup 2003 Pool C match between South Africa and Samoa. Credit: AFP

Joost donned the green and gold 89 times for South Africa throughout his career and famously played vital role in the Springboks 1995 World Cup win. He managed to tame the beast that was Jonah Lomu and made the pass that enabled Springbok flyhalf Joel Stransky to execute a perfect drop goal to win the game, all at the tender age of 24 and having done so nursing a broken a rib sustained in the semifinal against France in Durban.

WATCH: Joost's tackle on Lomu:

WATCH: Springboks win the 1995 Rugby World Cup:

Joost epitomised tenacity, which is what many fans and fellow teammates of the former Bok remember fondly and most notably.

For a scrum half to have, at a time, held the Springbok try-scoring record of 38 tries, is a marvel on its own.

Joost's self-belief made him stand out as a superstar try-scoring sniper and a fearless defender.

Joost captained the Blue Bulls to Currie Cup glory in 1998 and 2002, fulfilling his dream of winning South African rugby’s prestigious domestic cup championship.

WATCH: Bulls 1998 Currie Cup triumph:

WATCH: Bulls 2002 Currie Cup triumph:

The Blue Bulls beat Western Province 24-20 at Loftus Stadium in 1998 and in 2002 beat the Golden Lions 31-7.

After his stellar Currie Cup 98 performance, Joost was rewarded with the Springbok captaincy by Nick Mallet as the Springboks prepared the World Cup defence in 1999, taking over from Rassie Erasmus.

Photo: Joost van der Westhuizen in action for South Africa during the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Credit: Gallo Images

Joost made his impressions felt as a leader to be respected as he guided the Springboks to third place at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

A question as to why Joost didn’t become the first Bok to accumulate 100 test caps, haunted the former Springbok number 9 well into his retirement after his 2003 Rugby World Cup campaign under head coach Rudolf Straeuli in Australia.

Photo: South African scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen (L) and All Blacks winger Doug Howlett the Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between New Zealand and South Africa. Credit: AFP

In an interview in 2012, a year after it was announced that he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), Joost revealed that he had been dropped from the Springbok starting 15 for six tests under Nick Mallet, after an unnamed player preferred Werner Swanepoel at scrum-half over Joost.

WATCH: Fellow 1995 RWC winner Kobus Wiese in conversation with Joost van der Westhuizen:

Despite not making the 100 cup milestone, Joost was inducted into The International Rugby Hall of Fame (IRHOF) in 2007.

The rugby legend formed The Joost van der Westhuizen Foundation in 2011 in aid of those suffering from the same form of fatal illnesses that he was diagnosed with.

Photo: Joost van der Westhuizen during the Springbok 1995 Rugby World Cup winning squad anniversary at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa on June 24, 2015. Credit: Backpagepix

According to the foundation, the J9 logo is a symbol of willingness to strive forward and never give in, no matter how difficult life is.

The J9 Foundation is Joost’s Legacy to South Africa and to everyone who watched him around the world.