Watch: Lomu’s Words To Joost Van Der Westhuizen Were The Mark Of A Great Man
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“I’m sure you’re going to keep fighting on, which I am doing too. And I think that’s a bond that we will always have.”
44-year-old Van Der Westhuizen was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2011, having first encountered a ‘weakness’ in his right arm as far back as 2008. Four years removed from being handed a two-year life sentence by his doctors, the former Bulls half-back sits in a wheelchair, unable to speak clearly, staring fondly at the fellow rugby legend he hauled down outside his own 22-metre line en route to lifting the Webb Ellis Cup two decades prior.
And yet, in true Jonah fashion, it’s Lomu – having himself being warned that he faced a wheelchair-bound future before a life-saving kidney transplant in 2004 – who seems the more awe-stricken of the pair, dazzled by the battling spirit displayed by his former conqueror:
The most satisfying thing is that I can call you a friend. That keeps me going, man. That keeps me going. Now promise me that you’ll keep fighting, man, because I will. I’ll keep praying for you.
I’m sure you’re going to beat this thing, because you just have that spirit. You always have – that rugby spirit. You don’t get to the top if you don’t have that, if you ain’t willing to fight for it. And I’m sure you’re going to keep fighting on, which I am doing too. And I think that’s a bond that we will always have.
His old friend has this morning paid tribute to the great man with the following message.
Difficult to write with eyes full of tears on my eye tracker. Thank you for EVERYTHING Jonah. RIP my dear friend!
— Joostvdwesthuizen (@9Joost) November 18, 2015