Sportal.co.nz 05.Feb.2013Getty Images
Luyt, 80, had been ill for some time and had a history of heart complaints.
He played a central role in South Africa's reacceptance in world rugby by having secret negotiations with the African National Congress before apartheid was officially eliminated in South Africa.
He was also involved in rugby going professional in 1995 when involved in negotiations which were completed during South Africa's staging of the 1995 World Cup.
Luyt, a strongman of the Transvaal Rugby Union during the 1980s, rose to the leadership of the South African game from that power base.
A financial empire he developed started with a fertiliser business before he moved into brewing and then becoming a newspaper publisher when he started The Citizen newspaper in 1976, and played a key role in the redevelopment of Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
During the post-World Cup dinner after South Africa's success in 1995, Luyt angered New Zealanders, and others, with claims that South Africa would also have won the first two World Cups in 1987 and 1991 had they not been barred from participation due to the South African policy of apartheid.
He also raised eyebrows when presenting a gold watch to the referee of the World Cup final.
Forced to quit the presidency of SARU in 1998 after claims of racism and financial mismanagement, he became a Member of Parliament in 1999 for the Federal Alliance, a party he funded with the aim of protecting the rights and integrity of Afrikaners. It merged with the Democratic Party and became the Democratic Alliance, and it was later associated with the Freedom Front Plus.
The president of SARU, Oregan Hoskins said: "Doc Luyt was a single-minded and determined individual who dominated rugby politics following the death of Doc [Danie] Craven."