It was a sad moment when the first-team rugby boys, other learners, teachers and some former school and university friends of Joost van der Westhuizen’s came together at the FH Odendaal High School in the east of Pretoria on Thursday morning for a memorial service and to celebrate his life.
The school said it was a sad day to come together for a memorial service for one of their own.
Van der Westhuizen’s former teacher Jonathan Greyvenstein, who taught him from Grade 9, said he remembered how a teacher once told Van der Westhuizen that rugby would get him nowhere. Years later he went back to school and asked her if she remembered him.
He said “that blue-eyed boy” always gave his best.
“I had the privilege to coach Joost [in athletics] and to teach him LO.
“I encouraged him to be better than me and something in his blue eyes was stone cold. He replied: ‘You will see me sir’.”
He added that Van der Westhuizen always scored his first try in the first five minutes of a game.
School president (head boy) Lesiba Serite said Van der Westhuizen wasn’t just any ordinary guy.
“We as a school have lost a great legend. A great man that walked on the soil that you are walking on now. That great man that sat in the very same hall that you are sitting in right now.
“We should all be proud to call ourselves Odies, because an Odie, one of our own, changed the world,” Lesibe said proudly.
“Let us takes this man’s life as motivation to make a difference in the world. Joost was not just a number 9,” he said to loud applause.
The first rugby team members each got up on stage and lit a candle next to a portrait of Van der Westhuizen.
Then they got down to business and did a rousing rendition of the All Blacks’ haka.
“This is our celebration and farewell to a great legend,” one boy said.
Watch their unforgettable performance below: