South African journalist pays enormous compliment to Irish team for Joost van der Westhuizen gesture
A South African writer and broadcaster has paid tribute to the Irish rugby team for coming out in force to attend a fundraising event for Motor Neurone sufferer Joost van der Westhuizen.
Writing for vodacomrugby.co.za, Dan Nicholl described how the entire Ireland touring party turned out for a fundraising night for his J9 Foundation in Montecasino.
Van der Westhuizen, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, is one of the greatest players to ever play the game and was central to the Springboks 1995 Rugby World Cup triumph.
For Nicholl, who MC-ed the event, the presence of Rory Best's side was amazing gesture given that it came just days after Ireland's first ever victory on South African soil and ahead of their trip to Eden Park tomorrow.
"On Tuesday night, just three days after that historic victory in Cape Town, Joost van der Westhuizen brought his tired, fragile self to Montecasino for a fundraising night for his J9 Foundation," Nicholl wrote.
"A robust riposte to the cruelty of motor neuron disease, Joost continues to defy the ravages of the condition that’s left him a physical shadow of the warrior we knew on the rugby field, and continues to raise both funds and awareness for the battle against MND.
" In a Test match week, with a huge game at Ellis Park just days away, Ireland could easily have sent a few fringe players and management members, and no one would have begrudged them.
"But the entire squad – every single player, every single member of management – boarded the team bus from Sandton, rode the gauntlet that is William Nicol in evening rush hour, and strode into the venue with a collective smile, determined to support and celebrate a player who remains an icon to the rugby community."
"There was no sense of obligation to Ireland’s collective appearance at Tuesday’s dinner: this was a group of rugby players simply wanting to show one of their own that they were there for him, and that they had his back.
"Professional sport has little time for sentiment, and yet here was a team of professionals saluting a man held in immense esteem, both for his stellar career, and for the work he’s done in recent years, pouring the last of his diminishing strength into creating hope for others."
Nicholl signed off with this parting compliment: " At its most basic level, rugby is an act of camaraderie, and Rory Best’s team illustrated that superbly. Newlands was triumph for Irish rugby, but Tuesday night defined who they are as a team, and why we should celebrate that, no matter what jersey we wear this weekend."