Joost inspires ex-Shark

2014-05-21 11:13

Cape Town - Former Springbok scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen has given fellow MND sufferer and former Sharks player Ryan Walker words of encouragement.

Van der Westhuizen, who was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND) in 2011, visited Walker at his home in Nottingham Road in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands on Tuesday, the Mercury reports.

Walker, who played scrumhalf and centre for the Sharks in 2002 and 2003, was diagnosed with MND two years ago shortly after the birth of his first child.

He and his wife Paula, who is expecting their second child in three weeks, were comforted by Van der Westhuizen and David Thorpe, the CEO of Van der Westhuizen's J9 Foundation.

The former Springbok started the foundation to help raise awareness about the disease and assist fellow sufferers.

Thorpe said the message they want to convey is that there is hope for MND sufferers and that they are close to finding a cure.

Walker said the difficulty about the disease was that information about it in South Africa was a "bit of a black hole", with a lack of local research.

Van der Westhuizen agreed and urged MND sufferers not to "think it is the end".

The two were were opposing scrumhalves in the 2002 Currie Cup semi-final when the Blue Bulls beat the Sharks 22-19 at Kings Park.

Ryan Walker playing for the Sharks against the Blue Bulls in the 2002 Currie Cup semi-final in Durban. (Gallo Images)


  • Craig 'Jumbo' Edmondson - 2014-05-21 11:35

    Has anyone researched why so many players from a particular generation of rugby players all suffer from the same or similar neuron and muscular issues, what supplements were they taking at the time????? Venter, Linee, van der Westhuizen, Walker etc.....

      jason.hepple.5 - 2014-05-21 11:57

      Many are saying it was because of the chemicals used to spray the fields at the start of the professional era in SA... Colourants, weed killers, etc... If you look back at past Springbok games both Venter and Joost used to lick there fingers all the time during games.... Just a theory.

      Wehr Wulf - 2014-05-21 12:49

      It could also be the many head clashes and injuries sports like rugby, boxing, etc endure. Look at Mohammed Ali.

      Koos KitchenTea - 2014-05-21 14:08

      bad steroids? supplements? some dangerous stuff out there

  • Kevin Marsh - 2014-05-21 13:22

    Wish them both all the best .

  • Wilma Renney Botts - 2014-05-21 14:08

    I have also thought it has a lot to do with the hard tackling and head banging in the scrum just a thought as I feel too many people are getting this decease and its not normal. My heart really goes out to all these guys.

      Bertus Enslin - 2014-05-21 18:03

      Guys, my dad had Moto Neuron disease. Never played professional rugby and was never on supplements and or steroids. Albeit is agree substance abuse is very very bad the truth is there is no correlation between substance abuse and THIS disease. Many women also suffer from this and particular in Ireland there were at one stage many suffers. So , now proven theories and correlation between rugby, contact sport and this disease. Also what Andre Venter has is something very very different.

  • Josanne Jefferys - 2014-07-01 13:46

    Hi, my dad also had MND, he passed away 22 years ago at the age of 53. Although he was a bank manager for 30 years, he did partake in rugby, swimming and athletics. He did his military service where he was injured when a truck broke his leg, other than that my dad played squash and his passionate hobby was woodwork. He never smoked and had the occasional beer. I did notice however as a young girl of about 11 that he was frequently tired. Otherwise it came as quiet a shock to us when he was diagnosed with moto neurone, which was after a holiday to lake Kariba where he discovered the loss of one of his lungs. A sad and debilitating disease which he was detemined to beat. Xxx Jo

  • Gail Collins - 2014-08-13 12:14

    My heart goes out to all the loved ones of Motor Neuron sufferers. I lost my husband in 2010 and it was a tough time. There is no known cause and therefor no known cure. This disease does not affect their intellect, so treat them with respect and loads of love. Hats off to Joost for all the good work he is doing for fellow sufferers.

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