Joost van der Westhuizen: Wales coach Rob Howley pays tribute

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Scrum V's 2013 interview with Joost van der Westhuizen

Wales coach Rob Howley has said former South Africa captain Joost van der Westhuizen was the best scrum-half he faced during his career.

Van der Westhuizen, a World Cup winner in 1995, has died aged 45 following a battle with motor neurone disease.

Regarded as one of the finest scrum-halves in history, he won 89 international caps, scoring 38 tries.

"He was a world class nine who was respected throughout the rugby world," Howley said.

"He was a fantastic rugby player and for me was the best nine I played against.

"He had the ability to score tries from five or 70 yards, he was that good.

Joost van der Westhuizen in action against Wales' Garin Jenkins in 1994
Joost van der Westhuizen in action against Wales' Garin Jenkins in 1994

"I will never forget our game in Cardiff against South Africa in 1996.

"Joost scored three tries and was the difference between the two sides."

Van der Westhuizen was diagnosed with the debilitating motor neurone disease in 2011.

He captained the Springboks for four years, including at the 1999 World Cup, before his retirement in 2003 and in six games against Wales was never on the losing side.

His wins included South Africa's 28-20 triumph over Wales at Wembley Stadium in 1998 with New Zealander Graham Henry in charge of Howley and his team-mates for the first time.

Joost van der Westhuizen tackles Wales' Scott Gibbs in November, 2000 - a game the Springboks won 23-13 in Cardiff

Fellow scrum-half Howley, in charge of Wales while Warren Gatland is on British and Irish Lions duties, said the news of the South African's death was "devastating".

"Away from the pitch we have enjoyed some very good times, reminiscing and catching up and that continued over the years, he even flew to Wales for my testimonial in 2005," Howley added.

"I have been fortunate enough to play against him and enjoy his company off the pitch and it is tragic he has passed so young.

"Throughout his illness he remained the same character I always knew and he will be sorely missed."

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