Louis Luyt was born on 18 June 1932, and grew up in modest circumstances in the Karoo. In the 1940s Luyt was employed as a railway clerk. During his rugby career in the 1950s, he captained the Orange Free State province. By the end of the 1960s Luyt had become a millionaire.
In 1989 he took over the Presidency of the Transvaal Rugby Union and shortly afterward was elected President of the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU). It was during this period that he came under attack for his administration style and efforts to transform the sport into a professional one. He was accused of nepotism, bullying tactics, and administering autocratically. In 1992, Luyt clashed with the African National Congress when he chose to play only the Afrikaans section of the national anthem at the Springbok’s rugby test match against the All Blacks at Ellis Park stadium. Despite these problems, Luyt played a crucial role in ensuring the national squad’s re-entry into the international arena. His major contribution was in 1995 to facilitate the Springboks’ (Amabokkebokke) capture of the Rugby World Cup.
Luyt became infamous for his role in a 1998 court case involving President Nelson Mandela. President Mandela was called into the Pretoria High Court to defend his decision to launch a commission of inquiry into the level of alleged racism in South African rugby. While President Mandela argued that rugby's role in nation building allowed for a closer inspection by government bodies, Luyt believed SARFU to be a private association protected from government inquiries. Gradually people distanced themselves from him, including his former son-in-law Rian Oberholzer, the then Managing Director of SARFU. This moved resulted in Luyt’s sacking as President of SARFU in May 1998.
Luyt then ventured into politics with the Federal Alliance Party (FA), which he financed personally. His stated purpose in forming the FA was to protect the rights and integrity of Afrikaners. The FA took part in South Africa’s first democratic election in 1999 but won no seats, dissolving soon thereafter. Luyt revealed in his book, Walking Proud, that his birth name was Oswald Louis Petrus Poley, which he changed to Louis Luyt when his mother remarried his stepfather Charles Luyt.
As an entrepreneur, Luyt was prominent in the establishment of the Triomf Fertilizer empire and that of the Citizen newspaper, which was embroiled in the info scandal of the late 1970s. The scandal prompted the resignation of the Minister of Information Connie Mulder, and indirectly to the retirement of Vorster from the Premiership.
Luyt was married to Adri and they had four children.
Louis Luyt passed away on 1 February 2013.
Joyce, P. (1999). A Concise Dictionary of South Africa, Vol 2, Cape Town: Francolin.