Sport Rugby

Thursday 14 December 2017

WATCH - Joost van der Westhuizen's coffin carried by 1995 World-Cup-winning side at special memorial service

The South African flag is laid on the coffin of former South African rugby player Joost van der Westhuizen during a memorial service at Loftus rugby stadium on February 10, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.
The South African flag is laid on the coffin of former South African rugby player Joost van der Westhuizen during a memorial service at Loftus rugby stadium on February 10, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 10: Amor van der Westhuizenduring the Memorial service of Joost van der Westhuizen at Loftus Versfeld on February 10, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Johan Rynners/Gallo Images)
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 10: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Francois Pienaar and Morne du Plessis during the Memorial service of Joost van der Westhuizen at Loftus Versfeld on February 10, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Johan Rynners/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 10: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Support for Joost during the Memorial service of Joost van der Westhuizen at Loftus Versfeld on February 10, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Johan Rynners/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 10: Francois Pienaar during the Memorial service of Joost van der Westhuizen at Loftus Versfeld on February 10, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Johan Rynners/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Sean Gibson

The coffin of former South Africa rugby union captain Joost van der Westhuizen has been borne by his 1995 World-Cup-winning teammates at an official funeral service on Friday.

The scrum-half, who won 89 caps and scored 38 tries for the Springboks between 1993 and 2003, died on Monday aged 45 after a six-year battle with motor neurone disease.

Hailed as the best scrum-half of the modern era, the South African is credited with transforming the way the game is played, as opposition teams laboured to counter his pace and strength.

Van Der Westhuizen famously stopped the juggernaut that was Jonah Lomu in the final of the 1995 World Cup, becoming synonymous with South Africa's ultimate 15-12 triumph over New Zealand.

Mark Andrews, who played alongside the late van der Westhuizen in that match, told the Telegraph that his former teammate was as fierce in fighting his illness as he had been on the rugby field.

"He was a competitor until the end," said Andrews. "There was nothing that stood in his way of being a champion.

"He never gave up, he didn’t know how to. He treated his illness in the same way. They gave him a couple of years to live and six years later he has only just succumbed."

The diagnosis of a terminal illness prompted van der Westhuizen to change his approach to life, as he explained to an interviewer: "I am a better person now. I became an arrogant person and now I’m back to the reality of life and what is important."

Van der Westhuizen set up a charity, the J9 Foundation, in order to raise awareness and funds for research into motor neurone disease, for which there is currently no cure.

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