Joost van der Westhuizen, who won the 1995 World Cup with South Africa as Nelson Mandela looked on, has died after a six-year-battle with motor neuron disease. He was 45.
SA Rugby announced the death on Monday.
The scrumhalf distinguished himself in the epic final with a scything tackle on Jonah Lomu, New Zealand's colossal wing, and by delivering the pass to Joel Stransky for the winning dropped goal in extra time.
FILE - In this Saturday, June 24, 1995 file photo, South Africa's scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen lets fly a pass during the World Cup final against New Zealand at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. Joost van der Westhuizen, who won the 1995 World Cup with South Africa as Nelson Mandela looked on, has died after a six-year-battle with motor neuron disease. He was 45. South Africa Rugby announced the death Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/John Parkin, file)
The emotional 15-12 victory helped rally South Africans of all colors behind a nation emerging from apartheid.
Newly elected President Mandela famously donned a Springbok jersey and delightedly waved clenched fists as captain Francois Pienaar lifted the Webb Ellis Cup. The drama inspired Clint Eastwood's movie "Invictus."
"South Africa has lost a legend and one of the best rugby players that the country has ever produced," said South African President Jacob Zuma. "On behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa, our heartfelt condolences to Mr van der Westhuizen's family. May his soul rest in peace."
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said he would be remembered as one of the greatest Springboks. "He also became an inspiration and hero to many fellow sufferers of this terrible disease as well as to those unaffected. We all marveled at his bravery, his fortitude and his uncomplaining acceptance of this terrible burden.
"It's a sad day for rugby in South Africa and across the globe as we say goodbye to a legend of the Springboks," Alexander added. "Our condolences go to his family and friends at this sad, sad time."
Uncommonly tall for a scrumhalf, standing over 6 feet (1.82 meters), Van der Westhuizen was fast and attack-minded, but also a bruiser who relished the physical confrontation of rugby. His 89 tests and 38 tries for South Africa were both national records when he retired in 2003.
He captained his country in 10 tests and played at three World Cups. In all, he played 111 games in Springbok green and gold.
"He was very quick, always knew where the gaps were and could create something out of nothing," the South African Rugby Union said in its official biography when Van der Westhuizen retired.
Told by doctors in 2011 that MND might kill him within two years, Van der Westhuizen responded: "Stuff them. I will decide when I go."
He used a wheel chair in his last years and dedicated himself to his young children and J9 foundation that helps MND sufferers.
He told interviewers he had come to terms with his disease. He also won admirers for his honesty in admitting to mistakes in his personal life.
Although a target of overseas clubs when rugby went professional after the '95 World Cup, Van der Westhuizen never left his home team in Pretoria, where he was born, schooled and played all his provincial rugby for his beloved Blue Bulls team.
FILE - In this Wednesday, June 24, 2015 file photo, former rugby players Chester Williams, left, with teammate Joost van der Westhuizen, right, take a selfie during their 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning team reunion at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. Joost van der Westhuizen, who won the 1995 World Cup with South Africa as Nelson Mandela looked on, has died after a six-year-battle with motor neuron disease. He was 45. South Africa Rugby announced the death Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, file)
Latest Nigeria News
- Steve Bannon won't be charged in Florida vote probe
- Israel approves first West Bank settlement since 1999
- What was Cleggy doing whispering on the front bench?
- Education Secretary says Grammars will help deprived
- Major review into car insurance launched after backlash
- DNA database is made up of sex worker samples
- Longer waits for hip operations, warns NHS boss
- Melbourne church destroyed in suspicious fire
- Sherri Papini 'blamed her mom for self-harm in 2003'
- South Sudanese students told to take out braids from hair
- 'Spitting woman' of Manhattan arrested
- Ivanka Trump back in NYC after White House uproar
- The best way to end revenge porn is to stop posing nude
- Michael Flynn seeks immunity for testimony in Russia probe
- Michelle Obama spends day with Native students
- Woman was 'punched and kicked in the back of an Uber'
- Oxford to display more portraits of women after protests
- Oklahoma break-in getaway driver abandoned friends
- Senate's blue wall begins to crumble on Gorsuch vote
- Melbourne pensioner wins right for more welfare benefits
- Teen arrested after 'missing' girl found safe by police
- James Comey's Twitter account is allegedly discovered
- Judge Napolitano returns to Fox after being benched
- Charter of Fundamental Right set to be ditched in Brexit
- Cyclone Debbie flooding NSW and Queensland
- Alabama teen banned from taking grandmother to prom
- Dirty secrets of laundromat: Illicit roubles in London
- Nicola Sturgeon photo similar to Thatcher picture
- Holidaymakers in the Caribbean verbally abuse hotel staff
- Ex-Archbishop of Canterbury calls Trump a Good Samaritan
- Columbia man arrested 6 years after mother was murdered
- Trump names and shames right-wing rebel Republicans
- Penn St trustee slams Sandusky's 'so-called' abuse victims
- Woman, 85, survived FIVE DAYS in the Colorado wilderness
- Trump planned to build a 60-story castle in 1984
- Oldest tattooed couple from Florida are 90 per cent inked
- Roger Daltrey says a 'dead dog' would have beaten Clinton
- FBI pictures reveal aftermath of 9/11 attack on Pentagon
- Professor is disgusted by man who gave seat to soldier
- Couple 'regularly' left their baby in the bath