CJ Stander Reveals His Special Connection With Joost van der Westhuizen

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Yesterday the rugby world lost a legend.

Springbok number nine Joost van der Westhuizen lost his long battle with Motor Neuron Disease at just 45 years of age. The Rugby World Cup winner will forever be known as the man who ushered in the new wave of half-back.

The former Springbok and Blue Bulls star was known for his fearlessness on the field, famously stopping Jonah Lomu in the 19995 final, a trait that also has become synonymous with Ireland’s South African born star CJ Stander.

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Stander was speaking at Carlton House today ahead of Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Italy and revealed a close connection with van der Westhuizen. When Stander made his Blue Bulls debut, it was none other than van der Westhuizen, who handed him his jersey.

“It’s tough because for my first professional start with the Bulls, he gave me my jersey, so I’ve got a bit of a connection with him.” Stander said.

“Everyone knew the time was coming but I think he’s in a better place. He’s going to be missed.”

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The back-row also revealed that the late scrumhalf was someone who inspired him growing up, and someone he always looked up to.

“He was really the first guy I looked up to when I was a youngster, he was an unbelievable player, an unbelievable human being,”

“He brought something to the game that was just unbelievable hard work matched with talent … the way he stopped a massive guy in Jonah Lomu in the Rugby World Cup.

“I think it was one of my first memories you know. Just to put your head down, it doesn’t matter what size you are, who you are, what you are.

“Just put your head down and stop those big guys and that’s something I remember from him.”

A warrior on and off the field, he will be sorely missed.