Joost van der Westhuizen

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Joost van der Westhuizen
Joost van der Westhuizen 2014.jpg
Van der Westhuizen in 2014
Full name Joost van der Westhuizen Heystek
Date of birth (1971-02-20) 20 February 1971 (age 45)
Place of birth Pretoria, South Africa
Height 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight 88 kg (13 st 12 lb)
School Hoërskool F.H. Odendaal
University University of Pretoria
Occupation(s) Businessman
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Scrum-half
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1993–2003 Blue Bulls
correct as of 26 December 2007.
Super Rugby
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1996–2003 Bulls 71 (61)
correct as of 15 September 2012.
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1993–2003 South Africa South Africa 89 (190)
correct as of 15 September 2012.

Joost van der Westhuizen (born 20 February 1971) is a South African former rugby union player who played as a scrum-half for the national team. He represented South Africa in 89 test matches, scoring 38 tries, and was a member of the victorious South African rugby team at the 1995 World Cup. He was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007,[1] and became a member of the World Rugby Hall of Fame when the International Hall was merged with the IRB Hall of Fame in 2014.

His playing honours include the World Cup (1995), the Tri-Nations title (1998), two domestic Currie Cup trophies (1998 & 2002), and he was a member of the South African Rugby team at three Rugby World Cups (1995, 1999, 2003).

In 2011, Van der Westhuizen announced that he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease (MND). He actively campaigns for issues relating to MND through the J9 Foundation, a charity devoted to MND issues.


Van der Westhuizen spent his entire club career with the Provincial State side the Blue Bulls, from 1993 until 2003, whereupon he retired from playing rugby.

He spent his entire career as a scrum half, and has the honour of being part of the first ever South African team to win the Rugby World Cup when the Springboks triumphed on home soil in 1995. Many observers of the game highlighted Van der Westhuizen's contribution to the team as vital, and a driving force behind the team's successes. As a scrum half, despite standing 6 ft 1 ins, an unusually tall height for a scrum half, he was known for finding and penetrating the tiniest gaps in opposition defences, and his willingness to move forward and join the attack, which brought him 190 points from 89 international caps. In his defensive duty, he played with savage aggression and a fearlessness that aided his team greatly, often producing heroic and result-defining tackles. This attribute was rigorously noted most during the game against New Zealand, who were favourites to win the tournament. Jonah Lomu, New Zealand's winger, made a typical battering run from deep. He defied several challenges before Van der Westhuizen hauled him down just outside the 22m line. Indeed, Lomu had never scored a try against South Africa, and never achieved such a moment again.

Van der Westhuizen retired from international rugby in 2003 as South Africa's record cap holder.


He obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Pretoria.[2]


In February 2009, Rapport newspaper and Heat magazine reported that they had video evidence of him engaging in sex play with a mystery blonde and snorting a white substance.[3] He denied being in the video but admitted knowing the two people in it.[4] although he has never identified the woman. Heat magazine later posted censored versions of the video online.[5]

In March 2009, a mystery former female sports star – thought to be high-jump champion Charmaine Weavers – claimed in a very detailed interview in YOU magazine that she had an on-off affair with him, with sexual encounters even while his wife Amor was in hospital. Also in March, a former stripper called Marilize van Emmenis came forward and in an interview with Heat magazine said that she was the girl in the video with Van der Westhuizen, and that they had done drugs together. She passed a polygraph test[6] and her voice was verified by a voice-recognition expert.[7] Van der Westhuizen refused to comment on this and other subsequent allegations of improper conduct with other women.

On 28 June 2009, Van der Westhuizen was taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack, though he was discharged soon afterward when tests found no evidence of heart problems. A panic attack was suspected.[8] On 1 November, Van der Westuizen confessed to being in the controversial sex video and apologised for lying. Around that time his autobiography, Spieëlbeeld (Man in the mirror), was released.[9]


Near the end of 2008, Van der Westhuizen first noticed weakness in his right arm, writing it off to the aftereffects of an old rugby injury.[10] A few months later, he was play-fighting in a swimming pool with a friend who was also his personal doctor, and discovered further weakness in the arm. The doctor suspected motor neurone disease, a diagnosis that was confirmed in 2011. At that time, Van der Westhuizen was given between two and five years to live.[10]

An August 2013 BBC Sport report illustrated the progress of his disease — by then, van der Westhuizen was confined to a wheelchair, and his speech had grown increasingly slurred. He told reporter James Peacock,[10]

I realise every day could be my last. It's been a rollercoaster from day one and I know I'm on a deathbed from now on. I've had my highs and I have had my lows, but no more. I'm a firm believer that there's a bigger purpose in my life and I am very positive, very happy.

In January 2014, he returned to the USA to participate in clinical studies with ALS researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He also planned to visit the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Center in New York City, which provides support to MND patients, as Van der Westhuizen hoped to start a similar organisation in South Africa.[11]

He remains active operating his J9 Foundation,[12] a charity devoted to MND issues, and regularly spends time with his children, a son and a daughter.[10]


  1. ^ [1].
  2. ^ Joost Heystek Van der Westhuizen Retrieved 25 June 2011. Retrieved on 20 July 2011.
  3. ^ [2] Archived 24 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Joostgate Videos. Retrieved on 20 July 2011.
  6. ^ Marilize's lie-detector test: passed!. (3 April 2009). Retrieved on 20 July 2011.
  7. ^ How Marilize’s voice was verified. (3 April 2009). Retrieved on 20 July 2011.
  8. ^ Panic attack caused Joost's breakdown – South Africa | IOL News. (12 July 2009). Retrieved on 20 July 2011.
  9. ^ I lied, Joost confesses: News24: South Africa: News. News24 (1 November 2009). Retrieved on 20 July 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d Peacock, James (19 August 2013). "Joost van der Westhuizen: Still fighting on his deathbed". BBC Sport. Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  11. ^ "Joost flies to USA for motor neurone studies". ESPN Scrum. 28 January 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  12. ^ [3]. J9 Foundation. Retrieved on 14 November 2013.

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Rassie Erasmus
Springbok Captain
1999 & 2003
Succeeded by
André Vos