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Springbok Legend Struck With Illness

van der Westhuizen diagnosed with motor neurone disease

Posted May 16, 2011 by Chris White

South African rugby has been rocked by the news

The world of rugby was shocked to hear of the news that former South African Captain and scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen has been diagnosed with a form of motor neurone disease.

The 40-year old was admitted to hospital for tests by a close family friend and doctor, having complained about problems he was suffering in his right arm.

A World Cup winner in 1995, van der Westhuizen was capped 89 times for his country and is South Africa’s joint record try scorer, having touched down 38 times. Van der Westhuizen captained the Springboks at the 1999 World Cup where they reached the semi finals, and played his final Test in the quarter-final defeat to New Zealand in the 2003 World Cup.

The recent years have been difficult for van der Westhuizen, having suffered a suspected heart attack after watching a match between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions in 2009.

Naas Botha, former Springbok-turned commentator, has said, “It’s shocking news. Everyone’s despondent and sad. We’re all asking questions, because we don’t even know exactly what it means to have this disease. It’s still sinking in. But it’s all we're talking about. Joost van der Westhuizen was one of the greats of South African rugby. To be interred in the International Rugby Hall of Fame, is an acknowledgement for his tremendous quality as a rugby player. I hope everyone can support him during this time.”

The fourth highest capped player in South African rugby history consulted two neurologists who confirmed the condition, which varies from person to person. Van der Westhuizen has begun treatment immediately, and we wish him well.

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