Former Springbok skipper and World Cup-winning scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Doctors have suspected since May that the 40-year-old suffered from a motor neuron disease.
After visiting Erik Pioro, a neuromuscular specialist in Cleveland, Ohio, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.
"Dr Pioro confirmed that Joost does indeed suffer from ALS, which gives him a 80 percent chance to live between two and five years," Van der Westhuizen's South African doctor Jody Pearl said.
The disease is incurable and almost always fatal.
The illness gradually leads to paralysis, speech and swallowing difficulties and problems with breathing.
Sufferers usually die within three to five years.
British scientist Stephen Hawking is one of the more famous people with the disease, which strikes one to three people out of every 100,000.
Van der Westhuizen shares the record as try scorer for South Africa at 38 with wing Bryan Habana and also captained the 1999 World Cup team, retiring after playing in the 2003 tournament.
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