VIDEO: Robert Jones helps rugby giant Joost in battle against terrible illness
IN HIS day he was one of the giants of world rugby but now a debilitating illness has reduced him to a shadow of his former self.
Joost van der Westhuizen, who helped the mighty Springboks to the 1995 Rugby World Cup through his sheer power, brilliance and individual skill, is, in his own words on his deathbed, after contracting motor neuron disease.
The scrum half’s combative spirit however has seen him set up the J9 Foundation to raise awareness of the debilitating condition rather than give in and he has found support from one of his arch rival on the field of play, Robert Jones.
The former Wales and Whites favourite, these days a respected Scrum V pundit, said: “I played against him on a number of occasions for Wales and the Barbarians.
“Joost was a huge part of that golden era of South African rugby when they came out of apartheid and took on the world and won the World Cup.
“He was always a pleasure to play against, he was a fantastic opponent and I always got along well with him.
“He was one of the best scrum halves in world rugby so to see him suffer the way he has when he was one of the fittest, strongest players around, and not just at scrum half.”
Robert will attend a special dinner in Cardiff two days before Wales play South Africa alongside as many other Welsh nines as possible.
He said: “I’m more than happy to be part of this event which aims to raise money for his charity and awareness of motor neuron disease.
“A lot of the rugby world has come together to do whatever they can for one of the greats.”
Speaking to the BBC van der Westhuizen said: “I realise every day could be my last.
“It’s been a roller coaster from day one and I know
I’m on a deathbed from now on.
“I’ve had my highs and I have had my lows, but no more. I’m a firm believer that there’s a bigger purpose in my life and I am very positive, very happy.”
Emma Johns, from the MND Association said: “Joost van der Westhuizen is one high profile example of so many inspirational people living with MND. He has raised much-needed awareness of this relatively rare, devastating disease back home in South Africa and further afield.
“We have a network of branches and volunteers supporting the vital work that the Association does in Wales to ensure those living with MND can achieve the highest quality of life. We hope that Joost might find time to meet with some of them during his trip to the UK in the Autumn.”
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