Canberra - Brumbies player Shawn Mackay died in a Durban hospital from a heart attack a week after suffering critical injuries when he was hit by a car, a spokesperson for the Super 14 rugby team said on Monday.
Mackay, 26, had been in hospital with multiple injuries since the early hours of March 29.
"After his surgery Shawn contracted an infection in his bloodstream," Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan said. "He deteriorated rapidly and suffered a cardiac arrest from which he didn't recover."
Fagan said Mackay had shown some initial positive signs after being brought out of a medically induced coma late last week, but picked up an infection several days ago which was being treated with antibiotics.
"However, those antibiotics were failing to do the job and the doctors were unable to identify the source of the infection," he said, adding it led to a rapid deterioration of Mackay's condition in the last 12 hours.
Mackay had been admitted to St. Augustine's hospital in Durban with a cervical spinal fracture and dislocation, a fractured skull as well as a broken leg and multiple facial fractures after being struck by the vehicle on a Durban street.
The incident occurred about 04:15 SA time when Mackay and a number of other Brumbies were leaving a nightclub after their Super 14 loss to the Sharks the previous evening.
Mackay's parents, John and Leonie Mackay, and girlfriend flew to South Africa last week to be by his side.
The Brumbies squad flew back to Australia on Monday after completing a three-match trip to South Africa with a win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last weekend. They were told of Mackay's death by Brumbies coach Andy Friend when they arrived in Sydney.
"It's fair to say that we are all in shock and we have taken the news very, very hard," Friend said. "When we left South Africa we all hoped that Macca (Mackay) would recover quickly and would be joining us home in a matter of weeks.
"When we recruited Macca to the Brumbies we did so for his character as much as for his outstanding rugby skills. He was generous, he was warm, he was funny and an enthusiastic player."
The Brumbies had signed Mackay, a former Australian 7s captain, to a one-year rookie contract for the 2009 season.
The backrower had six state caps for the New South Wales Waratahs and had been a member of the Australian 7s side since 2004.
He also spent five years with the Sydney Roosters in the National Rugby League.
"I'm probably one of the older rookies going around but I'll be looking to draw on my experience to make the most of any opportunities I get at this level," Mackay said at the time of his signing with the Canberra-based Brumbies.
Born in Sydney, Mackay attended Waverley College alongside current Brumbies Stephen Hoiles and Patrick Phibbs. After leaving school Mackay played rugby league with the Roosters but in 2004 returned to rugby union.
Mackay played in two matches this Super 14 season, both on the South African tour. He came off the bench against the Lions in Johannesburg and against the Sharks the night before the accident.
Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill said Mackay was "a credit to the game of rugby, and much loved by all who knew him."
"We were all hoping after the terrible events of last week that he would recover from what were horrific injuries," O'Neill said.
He said Mackay took on the coaching of the Australian women's 7s team last year and guided them to the Oceania title, which qualified the side for the IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens.
"The girls, after winning the World Cup in Dubai last month, paid tribute to the role Shawn played last year in assisting them on their quest," O'Neill said. "This news today has shocked not only the rugby world but the entire sporting fraternity given the friends Shawn had across the various codes."