Cape Town -
He can barely walk or speak properly. But former Springbok captain Joost van der Westhuizen made sure he was immortalised in South African rugby history on Wednesday when a mould of his hand was taken to be displayed in a new rugby museum.
Van der Westhuizen was one of 41 Springbok captains gathered at the V&A Waterfront where their hand imprints were captured in moulds which will be cast into bronze and displayed in the new Springbok Experience rugby museum.
Some of the former captains in attendance were Dawie de Villiers, Des van Jaarsveldt, Abie Malan, Naas Botha, Rassie Erasmus, Tiaan Strauss, Bob Skinstad, Allister Coetzee and current captain Jean De Villiers.
With the help of former captains Francois Pienaar and Wynand Claassen, a fragile and emotional Van der Westhuizen was brought to the stage where they were all seated. The only words Van der Westhuizen could utter during an interview with the Cape Times yesterday were: “I feel good.”
In May 2011 he was admitted to hospital after he experienced difficulty with his speech and muscle power. Medical tests then confirmed that he was suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neuron disease. It is fatal for most.
Former captains all shook Van der Westhuizen’s hand offering their support and wishing him well.
Cassiem Jabaar, renowned South African Rugby Union captain in the 1960s, said the occasion brought unity in the country.
“We always just heard these guys’ names, and now we see them in person and we are talking to them in person. And they are coming to the party and are talking to us. So, it’s a good exercise, and it’s an exercise that should be continued in the ranks of South African rugby,” Jabaar said.
Morné du Plessis, who served as captain from 1975 to 1980, described the bringing together of all the past captains as a significant moment.
Pienaar, best known for leading South Africa to winning the 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup at Ellis Park Stadium, said: “The museum is an honour for all of us.”
According to SA Rugby’s official website, the full list of captains – in historical order – is as follows: Des van Jaarsveldt, Avril Malan, Austen van Heerden, Abie Malan, Ebrahim Rinquest, Nelie Smith, John Bekkers, Dawie de Villiers, Welile “Bomza” Nkhola, Salie Fredericks, Norman Mbiko, Hannes Marais, Dougie Dyers, Piet Greyling, Liston Ntshongwana, Thompson Magxala, Cassiem Jabaar, Morné du Plessis, Jack Juries, Peter Jooste, Theuns Stofberg, Wynand Claassen, Julian Smith, Randy Marinus, Divan Serfontein, Naas Botha, Peter Slabbert, Fagmie Solomons, Jannie Breedt, Allister Coetzee, Francois Pienaar, Tiaan Strauss, Adriaan Richter, Gary Teichmann, Corné Krige, Rassie Erasmus, Joost van der Westhuizen, André Vos, Bob Skinstad, Nomsebenzi Tsotsobe, Ingrid Botha, Mandisa Williams, Jean de Villiers.