Tribute to Joost, the leader

“It is Joost van der Westhuizen who picks up the ball from the back of the scrum and makes the break to the blindside. Now it is only Joost, the last defender and the try line, left-right and left again; Joost has left the defender behind and dives over for the winning try”

This was the scene of the all-important final for the front yard rugby league trophy between myself and my younger brother at the Swart’s residence.

It is hard to imagine any scrumhalf worthy of my imagination as a 10-year-old boy to have scored the winning try, or made that try saving tackle. Joost is a man of influence, and many boys and men dreamed of following in his footsteps.

At the age of 45 a Springbok legend has departed, remembered for many characteristics by many. Watching him play as I grew up, following him in the media and finally watching his last few interviews and tributes the following stood out to me.

Winner’s Mindset

Joost was born to win. Nick Mallet who coached Joost noted that Joost detested losing. He was a hard worker and did whatever was required to get the team closer to the win.

Joost noted towards the end of his life that he would like to remembered as a winner by his team mates. It is hard not to do so when one takes into consideration the success he achieved on the international scene with an almost 70% success rate in his 89 test matches.

Joost is a winner.

Made mistakes and owned up to it

Joost was involved in a scandal that would end his marriage and many opportunities. Joost mentions that he experienced the highest of highs in his rugby career and certainly this off the field incident was one of the lowest lows he would suffer.

At first Joost tried to cover up the mess he was in but realized that he would have to take responsibility for the mistake he had made.

Joost made mistakes, owned up to it and experienced an invaluable lesson in responsibility when as he stated “took it on the chin” and dealt with the consequences.

Joost took responsibility.

Purpose in the pain

In 2011 Joost was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease MND. I cannot imagine what Joost must have endured in suffering, but Joost did not give in to death.

Joost fought to the end and had found his purpose, as world cup winning, Springbok captain having experienced the highs of life as a rugby player he would experience the high of helping those who were fellow suffers with the MND disease.

In an interview, close to the end of his life Joost could say that he was experiencing a high in life, helping others, finding purpose in the pain and living life to the fullest.

Joost lived with purpose.

God Bless

JP Swart

Check out: J9 Foundation –



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