Legendary South African Rugby captain joost van der westhuizen passed away on Monday at the age of 45 following a long battle with motor neurone disease. Having been diagnosed with the illness in 2011, the former scrum-half was admitted to the hospital on Saturday, with his situation described as critical.

Having won the World Cup in 1995, van der Westhuizen was described by teammates, opponents, and fans alike as one of the greatest scrum-halves the game has ever seen. His death was announced by his own charity -- the J9 foundation, with their statement describing how the Springbok passed away in his home surrounded by his loved ones.

Rugby career

Over a ten year career with the Springboks, van der Westhuzien collected 89 caps for his country, making his debut in 1993. In that period he scored 38 times, and captained his country for 4 years up until his retirement in 2003. He was his country's leading scorer until Bryan Habana overtook his achievement in 2011. As well as being part of the Springbok side that lifted the rugby World Cup on their home soil in 1995, he captained the team during their defense of the trophy in 1997, an event in which they finished third. Furthermore, he became South Africa's most capped player, though he has since been surpassed by five other players following his retirement.

Life after Rugby

On being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, a progressive illness that results in the degeneration of motor neurons as well as the wasting away of the body's muscles, van der Westhuizen set up the J9 foundation to provide care and support for others suffering from the disease.

Despite updates describing how he had been battling the illness bravely, the unfortunate news of his death was a shock to everyone in the Rugby world.

Former teammates have, on Monday, been describing how wonderful he was, both on and off the field. The current SA Rugby President Mark Alexander described Joost as "one of the greatest Springboks -- not only of his generation, but of all-time." He went on to declare him an inspiration to fellow sufferers and spoke of his bravery in coping with such a debilitating illness.

Former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll described him as the "first of the new age 9's," and Wales' interim coach Rob Howley, a former scrum-half and opponent, stated that he was "a world-class nine who was respected throughout the Rugby world." Current England coach Eddie Jones, who coached van der Westhuizen during his spell in Super Rugby, described how his Bulls side "were a completely different team with him playing and he will be sorely missed."

It is a sad day for both South African Rugby and the Rugby fraternity in general.

Having filled fans with joy through the way he played the game, he will be sorely missed by anyone fortunate enough to have met him and seen him play.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!