22 Aug 2013

Boks legend on deathbed

6:39 am on 22 August 2013

Former South African rugby captain Joost van der Westhuizen is approaching the end of his life, two years after being diagnosed with deadly motor neurone disease.

The 42-year-old told the BBC in an interview that he realises every day could be his last.

Van der Westhuizen says that it's been a rollercoaster from day one and he knows he's on a deathbed from now on.

Motor neurone disease damages parts of the nervous system, gradually leading to paralysis, speech and swallowing difficulties and breathing problems. It is incurable and almost always fatal.

The halfback was given two to five years to live when he was diagnosed in 2011.

The Springbok great slurs when he speaks, is wheelchair-bound and so weak he can barely lift food to his mouth.

But van der Westhuizen, who was part of the winning team in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and captained the Springboks in the tournament four years later, says he's at peace as he's a firm believer that there's a bigger purpose in his life and he's very positive and happy.

He scored 38 test tries in 89 appearances in the green and gold by the time he retired in 2003.

But he has drawn equal attention off the field, after a sex tape of his cocaine-driven romp with a prostitute was leaked in 2009.

The scandal cost him his marriage and a lucrative commentator contract with Johannesburg-based satellite sports channel SuperSport.

Van der Westhuizen currently spends much of his time with his two young children and has also set up the J9 Foundation to promote awareness around the disease.