A Eulogy for a Friend
When Rugby Legend Joost van der Westhuizen succumbed to motor neuron disease (MND) in February 2017, South Africa was shocked and saddened at the loss. Sports enthusiasts and members of the South African Rugby Legends Association (SARLA) flocked to the memorial service to pay their respects, as did Gavin Varejes, President of SARLA, who delivered a moving eulogy.
Gavin Varejes and Joost van der Westhuizen
Joost and Varejes met in the late 1990s and nurtured an open and honest friendship ever since. As Captain of the Legends team, Joost was deeply involved with SARLA and committed to the cause. In 2011, Varejes noticed that he was slurring his words and walking with an unsteady gait. As the problem persisted, Joost became concerned about his unsteadiness and went for medical checkups. Soon thereafter, in April of the same year Joost was diagnosed with MND and told he had less than two years to live.
Joost: Rugby Player, Legend and Friend
As one would expect, van der Westhuizen’s initial response was utter devastation, but Joost was blessed with a can-do attitude that was an inspiration to Gavin Varejes, thousands of rugby enthusiasts and the whole nation. On and off the playing field, he gave many people hope and something to believe in during the darkest of times. Varejes described him as a loyal and brutally honest friend, who expected a great deal from himself as a player and a person. He lived life to the fullest and found joy in the little things. From Joost’s point of view, the glass was never half empty or half full – it was always full of water and air because both are vital resources. The memory of Joost van der Westhuizen will forever remind us of the essence and power of real friendship and brotherhood. He taught us to never give up, and he practiced what he preached with great enthusiasm until the bitter end.