Joost van der WesthuizenJoost van der Westhuizen with former Springbok Captain, Bobby Skinstad. Photo: AFP

South African legend Joost van der Westhuizen died on Monday aged 45 after a long battle with motor neurone disease, triggering a wave of tributes to one of rugby’s greatest.

The former scrum-half, Springboks captain and 1995 World Cup winner was diagnosed with the condition in 2011 and his declining health had been closely followed by anguished fans around the world.

Joost van der Westhuizen
Joost van der Westhuizen will go down as one of rugby’s greatest. Photo: Getty Images

“It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Joost. He passed away in his home surrounded by his loved ones. He will be sorely missed,” the J9 Foundation, which was set up in his name, said on its Facebook page.

Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, called van der Westhuizen “one of the best scrum-halves world rugby has ever seen”.

“Joost will be remembered as one of the greatest Springboks — not only of his generation, but of all time,”- Mark Alexander

“He also became an inspiration and hero to many fellow sufferers of this terrible disease.

“We all marvelled at his bravery, his fortitude and his uncomplaining acceptance of this terrible burden.”

President Jacob Zuma said that South Africa had “lost a legend and one of the best rugby players that the country has ever produced”.

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