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'He was the guy who knocked over Jonah Lomu'

Colleagues and rugby fans have been paying tribute to former Springbok captain Joost van der Westhuizen, who died on Monday.

FILE: Joost van der Westhuizen. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - Colleagues and rugby fans have been paying tribute to former Springbok captain Joost van der Westhuizen, who died on Monday.

The former Bok scrumhalf was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital in a critical condition on Saturday.

He had been battling motor neuron disease since 2011.

Former Springbok flyhalf Joel Stransky says it was tough to see his friend battle.

“His mind was sound. The disease does not affect your mind and I can only imagine how tough it was for him in the end.”

He says Van der Westhuizen never gave up while playing rugby.

“He was the guy we followed into battle because he never gave up. He was willing to lay his heart, body and soul on the line and he was the guy who knocked over Jonah Lomu.”

Former Bok flyhalf Naas Botha says more awareness has been created of motor neuron disease.

“We were very fortunate to learn something about a difficult disease for the last six or seven year and I think a lot of people will definitely understand the sickness a lot better now.”

Joost van der Westhuizen's career in numbers

Inside the career of the former Springbok scrum-half who died on Monday after battling motor neuron disease since 2011.

In a statement confirming his passing, the J9 Foundation said that the van der Westhuizen family has been left devastated by the former scrumhalf’s death.

"The family remain strong under the circumstances, however are devastated at the loss. This is a great loss to so many around the world and the family would like to extend their greatest gratitude for the love and support shown over this difficult time.

"We ask that the family’s privacy be respected at this time and funeral arrangements will be notified in due course."

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander has paid tribute to the scrumhalf, describing Van der Westhuizen as one of the greatest Springbok players of all time.

"Joost will be remembered as one of the greatest Springboks – not only of his generation, but of all time,” said Alexander said.

"As a player, he lifted the Rugby World Cup, Tri-Nations and Currie Cup while establishing himself as one of the best scrumhalves world rugby has ever seen. He was the record holder for the most Test tries for the Springboks for more than 13 years and finished his international career with 38 Test tries.

"He also became an inspiration and hero to many fellow sufferers of this terrible disease as well as to those unaffected. We all marvelled at his bravery, his fortitude and his uncomplaining acceptance of this terrible burden,” said Mr Alexander.

WATCH: Remembering SA rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen

[WATCH] Remembering SA rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen

Former Springbok Joost van der Westhuizen has lost his fight against motor neuron disease at the age of 45.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

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