Goodbye old Friend
At the memorial service of South African Rugby Legend Joost van der Westhuizen, SARLA President and Executive Chairman of Richmark Holdings, Gavin Varejes spoke from the heart about his close longtime friend. Six years after receiving a diagnosis of motor neuron disease and being given two years to live, in April of 2011, Joost finally succumbed to the disease.
The Start of a Beautiful Friendship
With a mutual passion for rugby, Gavin Varejes and Joost van der Westhuizen became friends practically the minute they met, almost 20 years ago. Both were active in promoting South African rugby through SARLA, Joost was the captain of the team, and they spent a fair amount of time on rugby related projects together. In early 2011, van der Westhuizen was working at one of the Richmark Group companies and Varejes became concerned with his performance, his stride was unstable and his speech was slurred. When he discussed his worries with his close friend, he too became alarmed and began medical examinations. It wasn't long before Joost learned he had MND and wouldn’t live longer than another two years. When he told Varejes the bad news, they both cried together, but Joost quickly gathered his mental strength and trademark optimism and refused to let the diagnosis stop him from following his passions.
Legendary Rugby Player and Man
Instead of giving up on life, Joost went full-steam ahead with his SARLA projects, together with Gavin Varejes. He even started a new Foundation with the goal of creating global awareness of MND - the J9 Foundation, which he continued to develop until the very end. Joost was a loyal friend with a positive attitude that inspired the nation. Whether it was on the rugby field or in everyday life, he gave his followers something to believe in – even during his darkest hours. Many valuable lessons about integrity, friendship, family values and brotherhood were learned from Joost. Until his tragic passing this legend was a living example of the power of persistence, no matter what life sends your way.