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Twitter took a break from complaining about politics, the terribly dry weather and celebrity fallouts this weekend, as former Springbok rugby player Joost van der Westhuizen was rushed to hospital.
The 45-year-old former Blue Bulls captain was diagnosed with a form of motor neuron disease (ALS) in 2011, and has since been confined to a wheelchair. But that hasn’t stopped him from taking part in ALS research and drives.
Joost’s J9 Foundation: ‘Thank you for the continued support for him and his family’
This weekend though, Twitter was noticeably shocked by the news that Joost was in critical condition. Still, users of the social network put aside their differences to wish the former scrumhalf well.
“Hang in there #Joost”, one tweeter wrote.
Hang in there #Joost
— Mthimkhulu (@dumikakosi) February 4, 2017
“Sparing a thought for #joostvanderwesthuizen before I sleep,” another wrote.
“I wish you peace and serenity #Joost.”
— Christian Smit (@christiansmit) February 5, 2017
Others lauded Joost’s fighting spirit, citing previous reports that the rugby player would likely succomb to ALS in 2016.
— Nthabiseng (@NthabiNkosin) February 4, 2017
Some Twitter users remembered the Rugby World Cup of 1995, when “the whole nation [was] behind this legend”.
#JoostvanderWesthuizen feels like ’95 where the whole nation is behind this legend. Proud and sad today. Get better Joost
— Riaan van Schalkwyk (@Jiminy777) February 4, 2017
Not all was well or indeed factual on social media though.
Fake news and hoaxes
Rumours suggesting that van der Westhuizen had died also began circulating soon after he was rushed to hospital Saturday.
According to an EWN report, a Facebook page titled “Springbok Rugby Blog” posted a message suggesting that Joost had died in hospital. The page has since edited the post, asking followers to “keep praying for him”.
Director of Joost’s J9 Foundation Odette Schwegler has also asked people in a comment below the post to “only trust information shared on the J9 Foundation page”.
J9, in a Facebook post, confirmed that Joost is “much better today [Sunday] however he is tired and been resting this afternoon”.
“Thank you for the continued support for him and his family.”