It has been revealed that former South Africa rugby union player, Joost van der Westhuizen has died aged 45 after a long battle with Motor Neurone Disease (MND). But as we take in the sad news, a key question will be asked, namely, how will he be remembered?

The facts

Before we proceed, let us examine what exactly happened. As stated in the Telegraph newspaper, the former South African scrum-half and captain was diagnosed with MND back in 2011. At the time he was given just a couple of years to live, but managed to soldier on until now. He was "admitted to an intensive care unit" at a Johannesburg hospital on Friday (3rd February) and died yesterday morning (6th February).

As a player

But the main question to be asked is, how will he be remembered? In answering the question, I will split the article into two parts; on the field and off the field. With regards to on the field, he was referred to by the Express newspaper as a legend. Van der Westhuizen who won 89 caps for South Africa and scored an "astonishing" 38 tries, was viewed by Wales's caretaker coach Rob Howley as the "greatest scrum-half he ever faced". He was described as being "fast, strong and brave" and was praised by England coach Eddie Jones as someone who could "control a game". Sir Clive Woodward in the Daily Mail newspaper stated that he is right up there with the "modern icons of the game" and praised him for being "very strong and wiry.

His death was viewed as "a tragedy beyond belief".

Off the field

But what about off the field? The Express newspaper reported that the former scrum-half had become a "tireless global fund-raiser", particularly in research to find a cure for the debilitating condition that he suffered with. His character and personality was also praised by former England scrum-half Matt Dawson, who stated, as reported in the BBC that he was "a very lively character" and that "his eyes lit up the room".

Dawson also stated that after matches against each other, Van der Westhuizen would always "meet up, have a chat and socialise".

It is clear that Joost Van der Westhuizen will be remembered as a legend on and off the field. It is true also that the sport has lost one of its all-time greats.