South Africa
South African rugby rocked by fourth MND diagnosis
ESPN Staff
January 27, 2015

South African rugby is reeling from the news that a fourth high-profile former player has been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND). Former Natal Sharks and Rhodesia player Danny Delport was diagnosed with the terminal disease last year having re-settled in Perth, Australia, in 2008.

Joost van der Westhuizen, 43, is the highest-profile rugby player to suffer the disease, the Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks scrum-half having been diagnosed in 2011. He has since founded the J9 Foundation to help other sufferers, and now travels globally to raise awareness of the disease. Former Western Province and South Africa centre Tinus Linee died in November 2014, aged 45, and former Sharks scrum-half Ryan Walker was diagnosed in 2013, aged 34, after 15 months of treatment.

Delport, 62, faces further problems in Australia, with former team-mate Brian Boyes, a close friend in Perth, telling Sport24 in South Africa that the former winger's wife has osteoporosis, a progressive bone disease.

"Danny is not eligible for a government pension or disability pension as he has not been in Australia long enough," Boyes told Sport24, noting that Danny's Support Initiative had been established in order to provide financial and moral support.

Sport24 reported that Delport left Zimbabwe in 2000 after Robert Mugabe's supporters had confiscated his farm. The former player then settled in Cape Town, where he was involved in accounting, construction and farming, before his family migrated to Australia in October 2008. Sport24 reported that Delport had worked in Australia as a general labourer in the construction industry.

MND attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and causes progressive weakness and increasing disability, muscle wasting and, eventually, death. The disease received global publicity last year when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral on social media.

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