Rugby

Plane forms No 9 in sky for Joost

2017-02-10 19:24
Francois Pienaar and Morne du Plessis carry Joost van der Westhuizen’s coffin (Gallo Images)

Pretoria - An aeroplane flew over Loftus Versfeld - its smoke forming the No 9 in the Pretoria sky as one of the city's greatest sporting heroes was laid to rest.

Joost van der Westhuizen's public memorial service drew a crowd that was clad in Springbok green and Bulls blue.

Bill Beaumont, president of World Rugby, flew in from Dublin.

Morne du Plessis, Joel Stransky, Os du Randt, John Smit, Naas Botha, Breyton Paulse, Stefan Terblanche, Francois Pienaar were just a few of the former Boks in attendance.

This was a 'goodbye' to a man that is largely considered to be one of the greatest scrumhalves in the history of the game.

Van der Westhuizen died on Monday after a long battle with motor neuron disease, but the atmosphere hovering over Loftus Versfeld on Friday suggested that his legacy will live on.

"He is a legend of the game. A hall-of-famer and one of the greats," Beaumont told Sport24.

"We will make sure that we do something to honour his legacy in the years to come. There will be an award in his name, or something like that."

Van der Westhuizen's death is obviously still fresh.

His wife, Amor Vittone, looked sombre as she was wheeled to the stage behind Van der Westhuizen's casket.

Vittone arrived in a wheelchair and with a cast on her left leg.

Sports minister Fikile Mbalula had walked to the stage first, and behind him was the team of pall-bearers, led by 1995 World Cup winning captain Francois Pienaar and Du Plessis.

A problem with the sound system meant that Terblanche, facilitating proceedings, was forced to start the national anthem without any music.

Fortunately for him, PJ Powers was in the Loftus stands and she belted out the anthem in what was a truly touching moment.

Before all of the tributes began, Van der Westhuizen's coffin was wrapped in the South African flag by the South African police.

Read more on:    joost van der westhuizen  |  rugby
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