Gavin Varejes bids Joost Farewell
In February 2017 Joost van der Westhuizen, Rugby Legend and Captain of the South African Rugby Legends passed away after a long battle with motor neuron disease (MND). Rugby fans and the entire nation are mourning the great loss. At the touching memorial service, SARLA President Gavin Varejes spoke about his friendship with Joost and their mutual love for South African rugby.
South Africa’s favourite sport and its players.
In South Africa, rugby is more than just a sport – it is a brotherhood that brings people together regardless of culture, race and personality. Players like Joost make incredible sacrifices while also facing their darkest fears on the field, a difficult lifestyle to lead and even more difficult when they stop playing professionally. SARLA was founded to help these players transition from professional rugby to real life while also giving back to the community through several grassroots initiatives. As Captain of the Legends, Joost van der Westhuizen was actively involved in the Association's projects and dedicated to its goals. But rugby aside, he and Varejes were also close friends.
An Honest Friendship
Their friendship began in 1998, when Gavin Varejes assembled the World Cup captains together in order to promote unity through sport. Varejes was one of the first people to notice the changes in Joost’s speech and movement. He confronted his friend, thinking that he could be drinking a bit too much, but it turned out that Joost’s slur and unsteady walk were not because of alcohol consumption. He was suffering from ALS, a motor neuron disease. Varejes described the experience of receiving the devastating news from his friend. They both cried together, he said, for the first and final time. Despite being told that he had no more than two years of life left, Joost did not give up on living and he certainly did not let the devastation lead the way, not even for a day.
Thank you Joost.
Like the rest of South Africa, Gavin Varejes was inspired by the never-say-die attitude Joost possessed. Even during his darkest hours he did not stop working on the J9 Foundation, which he founded to aid others suffering from MND, or investing in his honest and close relationships with his family and friends. Joost spent his final months showing everybody in his life what the true meaning of family, friendship, brotherhood and integrity is – and for that we are truly grateful.
Gavin Varejes is the CEO of Richmark Holdings LTD and the President of SARLA (South African Rugby Legends association)