Minister's speech at Joost memorial service
MINISTER OF SPORT AND RECREATION IN SOUTH AFRICA’S EULOGY ON THE OCCASION OF THE OFFICIAL MEMORIAL SERVICE IN HONOUR OF JOOST VAN DER WESTHUIZEN, LOFTUS VERSVELD, THSWANE, GAUTENG PROVINCE 10 FEBRUARY 2017
The Programme Director,
The Chaplain and other religious leaders,
Traditional and Community Leaders,
The parents of Joost van der Westhuizen;Oom Gustav and Tannie Mariana,
His brothers; Pieter and Gustav,
His Children; Jordan and Kylie,
The mother Amor,
Mrs Gugu Montlanthe
The Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation in South Africa,
The MEC for Sport and Recreation Arts and Culture in Gauteng,
Government representatives from England and New Zealand
The SASCOC Leadership,
The Chairman of World Rugby; Mr Bill Beaumont,
The President of SA Rugby,
Members of the 1995 Rugby World Cup Teamand all the rugby Legends,
Former Team Mates from Blue Bulls and Springbok,
Representatives of the J9 Foundation
Residents of Tshwane and fellow South Africans
It is on this ever-green grass where the heart of Joost Van der Westhuizen lies dreaming, under the skies of the Jakaranda City, where birds are singing a song of the mountains, to which we have been summonsed by the soul of this doyen of South African rugby.
The Gauteng Government and National Government have been commanded by the President of the Republic of South Africa to convey our heartfelt condolences to the Van der Westhuizen family, to the Blue Bulls and Springbok fans. We are here to comfort the family and to demonstrate our support to the local rugby fraternity and show solidarity to the world of rugby on behalf of the people of South Africa on this solemn occasion.
For Joost is not only the golden boy of Loftus Versfeld, he is a National loadstar and international sport icon in the League ofGeorge Gregan of Australia, Jona Lomu and Dan Carter of New Zealand. We speak of him in these glowing terms because we believe his undying spirit will live on for many years to come, inspiring future generations of this rugby and sports-living nation.
The presence of esteemed Government representatives from New Zealand, England and other parts of the world is testimony to the indelible mark he leaves behind and acknowledgement of his enormouscontribution to the world of rugby.
Secondly and most important, when the South African Government learned of the shocking news that Joost finally succumbed to this rare illness, the highest office in the land ordered that Joost Van der Westhuizen be awarded aProvincial Official Funeral because he is one of a kind and he is simply the best!
Very few South Africans get to be honoured posthumously by being accorded this category of an official funeral.
In this seat of Government and across the Gauteng Province flags are flying half-mast. Today the body of this gallant fighter in and off the field of play is appropriately draped in a flag decorated by a kaleidoscope of South African National Colours in honour of this great sportsman.
Just after mid-day, the National Anthem reverberated through out this stadium as a human gesture of our collective symbol of respect to our fallen hero’s deeds and atribute to his indomitable soul with a white line fever. It is a fitting gesture because this brother wore both the Provincial and National colours with pride as a true sports tireless campaigner of this glorious nation.
When our proceedings draw to a close, we will hand over the flag to the family as a signal of our nation’s token of appreciation, a symbol of love and loyalty. The flag is a constant reminder of titanic battles this soldier fought at home and far afield, returning home to proclaim that the mission is accomplished.
This afternoon, the South African Police Service and the Chaplain are here to salute Joost! A giant scrumhalf that strode this pitch like a colossal fearing neither labor nor toil as he marshaled the Blue Bulls charges to the advancing opponents.
As you have heard, it is during the period 1993 to 2003 that Joost mesmirised the visiting teams at Loftus, on tour and in the domestic championships that left fans and foes believing in the invincibility of the Blue Bulls. Joost Van der Westhuizen is a household name in the then Northern Transvaal Province and played a pivotal role in bringing two Currie Cup trophies home.
As the previous speakers mentioned, the man we are giving this well deserved send off was a Springbok Captain and played in three IRB World Cups. One of them is the unforgettable 1995 World Cup, a massive human effort from which the Springboks emerged victorious. Joost was instrumental in that victory playing along side other living legends in the likes of Francois Pienaar, Chester Williams, James Small, Joel Stransky, to mention a few.
I strongly believe the Springbok Team winning the World Cup in 1995 was inspirational and motivational to John Smit and his generationas it fortified their resolve to win the World Cup in 2007.
Again I believe as a consequence of the maturity and competitive edge of the South African rugby we were serious contenders for the Willam Ebb Ellis Cup in New Zealand. There can be no denying that forces beyond our control conspired against us. That story is better left at that.
The Ministry of Sport and Recreation has been following Joost’s journey and fight for life. In 2012 we awarded him the Steve Tshwete Life-Time Achievement Award and I went to personally deliver the Award at his home. We were joined by his parents and other members of his family on this joyous occasion. I was indeed moved by his positive attitude and sense of humour never allowing himself to wallow in self-pity.
Fellow mourners Joost has been taken by his maker to be with him. The question we South Africans must answer is how do we keep the memory and legacy of Joost alive? My answer is that is incumbent upon us to continue to draw inspiration from the talented rugby players such as Joost as we strive to reclaim our number one place in the world of sport.
Our national hero and international icon Nelson Mandela acknowledged the unifying role of sport in society on many occasions. We ourselves can attest to the massive boost nation building and social cohesion derived from the rugby, football and cricket world and continental championships we hosted andwon on our shores. Let us build on the strength of our diversity a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic society and prosperous South Africa. Let the future generations learn that the best classroom in the world is at the feet of giants and champions such Joost, the Class of 95 in rugby and the Class of 96 in football.
I end by thanking Joost’s parents, children, siblings and the entire Van der Westhuizen family for sharing Joost with the sports fraternity and the nation. We salute you for your humility and spirit imbued by a deep sense patriotism manifest in you welcoming the Government and sports movement to join in the celebrations of the life and times of Joost. God bless you.
May His Soul Rest In Peace
Long Live the Spirit of Joost Van der Westhuizen!
Hamba Kahle! Mooi Loop Joos!