Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma has expressed sadness over the death of Springbok scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen, saying South Africa had "lost a legend".
Van der Westhuizen died on Monday afternoon after a six-year battle with motor neuron disease. He was 45.
He played for the Springboks 89 times, including in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which the Springboks won. He scored 38 Test tries.
"South Africa has lost a legend and one of the best rugby players that the country has ever produced," Zuma said in a statement.
"On behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa, our heartfelt condolences to Mr van der Westhuizen’s family. May his soul rest in peace."
Zuma also thanked South Africans for keeping Van der Westhuizen in their prayers.
Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula said South Africa was poorer without "this great giant".
"He leaves behind a generation of athletes who aspire for his legendary sportsmanship. We draw lessons from his fighting spirit in both the field playing for our national team and against motor neuron disease," Mbalula said in a statement.
"South Africa is poorer without this great giant and warrior of South African rugby."
The Democratic Alliance hailed Van der Westuizen as one of the greatest players to ever wear the famous green and gold jersey.
"We will always remember him as a part of the 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok team that brought South Africa together at the dawn of our democracy, unifying us in our diversity," the DA said in a statement.
Inkatha Freedom Party sports spokesperson Petros Sithole said Van der Westhuizen never stood back from a challenge and fought right up until the end.
"We never understand these things, but we have to know that God has a plan for all of us, even though we do not always agree," Sithole said.