Yesterday the world got the news that Joost van der Westhuizen has passed away. For those of you that don’t know, South Africa is a sport mad country. And Joost was one of the best players to pull the green and gold jersey over his head. For a total of 89 times, and wearing the captains armband 10 times. And entertained us with 38 tries and many passes and quick steps in his career. I grew up in a ‘rugby house’ (my dad played provincial rugby until I was 6 years old). Weekends we watched rugby, cricket or what ever was on. And Joost was part of the Springboks for 10 years. Watching some documentaries on TV last night, many of his team mates and opponents labeled him as a fighter with a willingness to win no matter what the scoreboards says.
We can all learn something from this man. He hit rock bottom in 2009 when the news papers ran the story about his stint with drugs and strippers. Off course the public hated him for this. Their fallen hero. And in the documentaries he refers to it as the lowest point in his life. Despite being diagnosed with motor neuron disease 2 years later. He turned his life around and rose even higher because of his disease. The doctors gave him less than 2 years to live, but he fought for 6 years. He started the J9 Foundation to raise awareness and help people with MS afford medical care and wheel chairs which they would not have been able to acquire otherwise. And today he will be remembered for his contribution to rugby and the awareness he created for MS. And off course ‘that’ tackle in the 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup on the great Jonah Lomu, that saw the Springboks raise the William Webb Ellis trophy for the first time and united a nation.
I want to end this post with a quote from one of the interviews they were broadcasting last night:
“Die lewe is ‘n lied, dis net die woorde wat soms moeilik is.” – Joost
Translated to: Life is a song, it’s just the words that are sometimes difficult.