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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Joost primed for final burst
Joost van der Westhuizen
Van der Westhuizen is relishing his World Cup bow
South African coach Rudolf Straeuli has turned to youth for the rugby World Cup, with the odd caveat.

Among the "old timers" lining up up for the 1995 world champions is scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen.

Some of the zip and stamina may have gone from the 31-year-old but, on his day, Van der Westhuizen has the vision to outfox the best in the business.

The reason for this resurgence and his fresh zest for playing, as well as life in general, is all down to a part-actress, part-variety singer called Amor Vittone.

Two years ago he looked on the verge of quitting the game after dramatically losing confidence and with his marriage falling apart.

He has since divorced his wife Marlene but is clear where he has recaptured his desire to play rugby.

He said: "My life has changed a lot in the sense that I am becoming the old Joost again, the same Joost that people got to know early in my career.

"I am unbelievably supported by Amor. She's the one who packs my bags and goes along to the games and tells me to enjoy it."

VAN DER WESTHUIZEN FACTFILE
DOB: 20/2/71
Position: Scrum-half
Team: Bulls
Test debut: 6/11/93 v Argentina
Tests: 85
Tries: 35
Favourite film: Last of the Mohicans
Favourite music: Anything but jazz

That helping hand could well give the spark needed behind the Springboks' impressive forwards to inspire a lacklustre back division, which rarely looked like taking Australia or New Zealand to pieces in the Tri-Nations.

Nor do South Africa look on course for a second World Cup win.

But Van der Westhuizen is just happy to be there.

He added: "At the moment I have such a great lust for life that I just want to play. Everything that will happen this year is a bonus as is everything that won't.

"I just want to enjoy it. I am happy and I want to end my career as I began it."

Straeuli has yet to settle on his first choice scrum-half but, with Van der Westhuizen's experience, when push come to shove he looks likely to get the nod.

The number nine, who made his debut as a 22-year-old against Argentina back in 1993, has already made clear his desire to retire from international rugby at the end of the World Cup.

Already capped 85 times for South Africa, he has broken record after record for his country, becoming the leading try scorer with 35 in the process.

With age catching up and his body feeling the physical toll - he has had three knee operations - Van der Westhuizen knows that this will be his last crack at glory.

His debut saw the first of his 35 tries. His swansong may yet see his last.





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