CJ Stander pays tribute to Joost van der Westhuizen

The South African scrum-half died on Monday

CJ Stander pays tribute to Joost van der Westhuizen

Picture by JOHN PARKIN AP/Press Association Images

Joost van der Westhuizen was the star of South Africa's World Cup-winning team in 1995.

The diminutive scrum-half changed the way the game was played from his position and his performances in the 1995 World Cup final, especially against Jonah Lomu will be long remembered.

After a long battle with motor neurone disease, van der Westhuizen died on Monday, surrounded by his family. He was only 45.

One player who grew up idolising the scrum-half was CJ Stander. The South African-born Irish international was five-years-old when South Africa won in 1995. He also would have watched van der Westhuizen impress for the Springboks until he retired in 2003.

Less than a decade later, Stander would play for the same Blue Bulls team that van der Westhuizen captained years previously.

"For my first professional start with the Bulls, he gave me my jersey, so I've got a bit of a connection with him," Stander revealed, ahead of Ireland's game with Italy this weekend.

Despite his young age, Stander added that memories of van der Westhuizen taking on Lomu were among his earliest memories as a child.

"Just to put your head down, it doesn't matter what size you are, who you are, what you are. Just put your head down and stop those big guys and that's something I remember from him."

Despite the sadness of van der Westhuizen's death, his health has progressively deteriorated in recent months. Stander now feels the scrum-half is now at peace.

"Everyone knew the time was coming, but I think he's in a better place. He's going to be missed."