WATCH VIDEO: Pretorians mourn rugby legend

Photo: Rekord Newspaper

The memorial service for rugby hero Joost van der Westhuizen is currently underway at Loftus Versveld.

Van der Westhuizen played many games at the stadium with his team, the Blue Bulls.

ALSO READ: NEWSFLASH: Joost van der Westhuizen’s funeral

A private funeral was held for Van der Westhuizen at the Lewende Woord church in Lydiana, east of the city, in the morning.

Joost will be remembered as one of Pretoria’s favourite sons who helped lead the Springboks in their ’95 World Cup victory.

The legend lost his battle to Motor Neuron Disease (MND) on Monday.

Van der Westhuizen died at home, surrounded by his family.

Among those present at the memorial service are: the Van der Westhuizen family; sports minister Fikile Mbalula; World Rugby Association president Baun Bauman; and PJ Powers who sang the Rugby World Cup theme song World in Union.

SA Rugby Legends Association (SARLA) president Gavin Varejes has said the Baragwane hospital will be opening its MND section today.

Varejes said hundreds of people around the world have sent letters to pay their respects to Van der Westhuizen.

Every letter said Van der Westhuizen was a game changer and one of the greatest rugby players of all time.

“The rugby world has lost a legend,” said Varejes.

Former Sharks player and captain of the national rugby union team John Smith said Van der Westhuizen was the ultimate contender until the end.

ALSO READ: BREAKING NEWS: Joost dies at home

Van der Westhuizen’s brother Pieter said: “Joost was very naughty, even in his wheelchair. He took the positive from life and he never let his sickness get the better of him.”

“People thank me and tell me I am the hero but I am not. Joost you taught our family a lot and we will honour you for the simple man you were.”

Francois Pienaar, former Springbok captain and Van der Westhuizen’s teammate, said Van der Westhuizen had earned legendary status twice: in 1995 and today.

Van der Westhuizen’s ex-wife Amor Vittone said she was scared of raising the children alone.

“Joost turned his disease into an opportunity to help others. It doesn’t ease the pain that he is gone.”

“He is free of his disease and the body that tested him for so long. Thanks to Joost’s parents, thanks for the love and support.”

“To Pieter, Marika, Gustav and Sonja thanks for the love and support you gave Joost. Thanks to my mum and dad for the support, as well as my sisters and family for the love and support.”

“Thanks Joost for being my first love and fairy tale and for giving me the best gift ever, our children Kayla and Jordan. Thank you Dada from the kids. We love and miss you and will remember you in our hearts forever,” she said.

Minister of sport and recreation Fikile Mbalula welcomed everyone who attended.

“Life is precious. Thanks to everyone who supported Joost till the end,” said Mbalula.

“Joost is an international sports star and we speak of him in these terms because his undying spirit will be remembered.”

Mbalula said when the government heard about Van der Westhuizen’s passing it was decided that he should be awarded a provincial funeral.

ALSO READ: UPDATE: Joost’s family devastated

“Today the flags are flying at half-mast for this legend. We will hand over the flag to the family. I stand here before you and say my blood is blou,” said Mbalula to a cheering crowd.

Fikile concluded with: “Mooi loop Joost.”

Do you have more information about the story? Please send us an email to editorial@rekord.co.za or phone us on 083 625 4114.

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