South Africa rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen to visit East Yorkshire
ONE of the world's most famous rugby union players is coming to East Yorkshire to raise money for charity.
Joost van der Westhuizen first held a rugby ball when he was aged five.
Since then, he has represented South Africa in three World Cups – winning one – and has been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.
He was credited with the defining moment of the 1995 World Cup – his tackle on New Zealand's man mountain Jonah Lomu – to help win the competition to win in front of Nelson Mandela.
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Now, he is coming to the Willerby Manor Hotel for a one-off talk to raise awareness of motor neurone disease (MND).
Joost was diagnosed with the most severe form of the neurological degenerative disease, which has led to an accelerated deterioration in his health.
Organiser John Thorpe said he thought tickets for the talk will sell out quickly. He said: "It is a celebration of his career.
"We also hope this event will attract local interest to help heighten awareness of MND and raise money to fund Joost's treatment and, ultimately, the research to find a cure for this horrendous degenerative disease, which is suffered by people throughout the world."
Joost, who retired from professional rugby in 2003, is the only Springbok to captain his country in the Sevens and 15-man games in World Cups.
The talk is raising awareness about an illness that has touched the lives of many rugby players in the region.
One of East Yorkshire's best-known amateur rugby players, Hull RUFC's Simon Smith, who also had MND, was 38 when he died in April 2007.
Before the father-of-two died, he had been writing a book called Alive But Not Kicking.
His aim was to tell others with MND and their families how to cope with being taken from the peak of health to being confined to a wheelchair.
It took him a day to write one page, using a button between his knees to type each letter, and his story was serialised in the Mail.
He did not finish the book before he died, so his family completed it and it was published.
Mr Thorpe said: "I hope rugby fans will support this event. Joost, no doubt, remains one of the most inspirational players in the history of South African rugby.
"He is undergoing treatment, being developed in the UK and tested in the UK and South Africa, in an effort to stabilise his condition.
"The disease is having an effect on him. He gets tired quickly, and sometimes as he gets tired his speech becomes slurred. I hope the Hull rugby world will support this event, not just for Joost's personal treatment, but for the treatment of motor neurone disease worldwide."
The event, at Willerby Manor Hotel, takes place on Thursday, March 14, at 7.30pm for an 8pm start.
There will be a three-course meal an auction, which includes one of Joost's World Cup jerseys and a question and answer session.
Entertainment will be from comedian and ex-professional rugby league player Lea Roberts.
Tickets cost £42.50 or £400 for a table of ten. Call 01482 391672 or 01482 223559 to book.
To sponsor the event, donate a raffle prize or find out more information, call 07946 584219.