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Johannesburg - They were South Africa’s Posh and Becks and from the day the international rugby star and the beauty queen started their relationship they were pursued by a celebrity-hungry public.
The attention followed Joost van der Westuizen and Amor Vittone during their courtship, their marriage and the birth of their two children. They graced the front pages of You and Heat magazine with monotonous regularity.
Then came the fall.
Joost was caught snorting drugs and involved in a sexual tryst with a stripper with his holey underwear exposed.
A devasted Vittone divorced him. Their relationship was so toxic that the tabloid press claimed she believed Joost was shamming when he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease.
On Friday Joost lost a court case to have a tell-all book entitled Joost & Amor, Behind the Headlines written by Gavin Prins laying bare his troubled marriage with Vittone banned.
Now not only will the former Springbok rugby player have to endure the stress of the book hitting the shelves on Monday, but also a hefty legal bill after losing his bid to stop the book’s distribution
On Friday Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann dismissed Joost’s application to ban the book, and slapped the wheelchair bound 42-year-old with the costs of the application.
According to a source, Joost’s futile attempt to stop the distribution of the book will cost the sporting celebrity up to R250 000 in legal fees as both sides used the services of a senior and a junior advocate to advance their cases.
The judge said the application raised important questions on media freedom and privacy and warranted the services of two advocates on both sides.
Joost’s lawyer, Ferdinant Hartzenberg, said the rugby legend, although defeated, accepted the verdict.
Within seconds of the judgment, Hartzenberg sent a text message to Joost to inform him of the outcome. Joost attended the hearings this week, but was not at court on Friday.
“I text him because he talks with difficulty. His reaction was that we should accept the verdict.”
Hartzenberg, who said he was somewhat emotional himself and “a bit disappointed”, said the judgment was a good one. “It is important to note that the judge said Joost should be admired for the work he is now doing (with the J9 Foundation).
“We knew from day one that there is a chance that things might not go our way but from the start it was about where the line should be drawn (when it came to the private lives of celebrities being splashed in public).
“It is not going well with Joost. He is under pressure and his family is under pressure. He has two young children who, on a daily basis, have to watch their father dying. We therefore thought a line should be drawn but the court did not agree. I know Joost is in the public eye, but he should be entitled to some privacy.”
Hartzenberg said he would not buy or read the book.
Prins and publishers Random House Struik said the book was on its way to retailers and would be available in bookstores from Monday.
On Friday, an extract from the book was available on Woman24.com – of how the story, with a “world exclusive” banner splashed on the cover, in Heat exposed Joost snorting drugs.
The introduction to the story reads: “It’s the cocaine Kate story all over again, only worse and too close to home. This time it’s none other than Joost van der Westhuizen, national rugby hero, icon and role model, who has been revealed to be a womaniser and drug user, on video!
“The shocking exclusive pictures on these pages are stills from a video that has been given to Heat. They contain scenes so explicit that they destroy the former Springbok captain’s reputation as a loyal family man.”
And destroy his reputation the story did.
He finally admitted in his biography that he was the man in the pictures, but his embarrassed and angry wife, Amor Vittone, refused to stand by him.
Now the pair have reportedly reconciled as van der Westhuizen battles motor neuron disease
Prins’s lawyer, Willem de Klerk, said they were relieved that the book could now be distributed after it had to been delayed for a week.
“We believe this is a victory for the right to publish information about people who place themselves in the limelight,” he said.
The judge said Joost was a prominent man whose celebrity status was the root of the application.
Joost had not established any facts to warrant the curbing of freedom of expression, the judge said.
Joost said the stress he would suffer when the book hit the shelves could have a dire effect on his terminal illness and even shorten his life. But the judge said there was nothing before the court to suggest this.
He also noted that Joost was present in court this week.
There was also nothing contained in the court papers to suggest that the book contained lies.
The judge said Joost and his estranged wife, Amor, had over the past 10 years “courted the limelight” and placed their lives in the public domain.
Regarding Joost, he said: “He shared the roller coaster of his life and the darkest moments with the public.” He said Joost fell under the category of celebrities who could no longer expect their private lives to remain private.
But Judge Bertlesmann also had some kind words, as he said Joost had rightfully earned the respect and esteem flowing from his past achievements.
“He is entitled to understanding and empathy. He is to be admired for the way in which he is dealing with his devastating illness.”
– additional reporting Cecilia Russell
December 21, 2002 – Married
2006 – The much-talked about sex video is filmed
February 14, 2009 – Sunday newspaper Rapport for the first time makes mention of the video
February 16, 2009 – Heat magazine breaks the story of Joost and drug scandal
November 1, 2009 – Joost for the first time admits, in his biography, that he is the man in the video
November 2, 2009 – SuperSport fires Joost
May 22, 2010 – Joost and Amor split up
August 5, 2010 – Joost issues summons against Amor for divorce