About ScrumMaster, Lunk and the Trip to South Africa for RWC 1995
I met Barry Kelly, one of Lunk’s friends and one of the initial investors in ScrumMaster, over a pint and we talked about the early days of ScrumMaster. It all started with the merger of UVic Vikes Old Boys, aka Valhallians, and the club adjacent to UVic, Velox, around 1987. They merged as the Velox Valhallians. Kevin Wirachowski aka Lunk was from UVic and Barry was from Velox. As the ScrumMaster records state, Lunk began tinkering with scrum machines in 1986 but didn’t build his first one until 1991, that one went to Velox. It was a prototype machine, he built a second prototype and that went to Cowichan, where Tony Medina, the other investor was a member.
Barry’s story starts in 1995, the year they took their brand new cadillac of scrum machines to South Africa to show it off at the Rugby World Cup. This was one of the finest looking scrum machines made, a generation beyond the earlier prototypes he had built. It had a sleek fibreglass body, a control panel, it looked impressive.
The plan was to showcase it at the World Cup so it got it loaded on the plane and Lunk, Barry and Tony flew to South Africa. The earlier prototypes were steel framed throughout, they achieved much of their weight from the design. They would be expensive to ship, this model had a 3,000 lb water bladder, shipped empty and filled up on arrival. As for the workings of the machine, Barry called it “pneumatics over hydraulics”.
Barry’s favourite story was attending the RWC final, South Africa vs NZ. Tony thought it would be impossible to get tickets so decided to watch from a bar, Lunk had tickets to the Toshiba booth and Barry decided to try his luck with the scalpers. He approached someone outside the stadium who was standing on a small box and offering a spot in one of the private booths, Barry ended up in a bidding war against an American for the spot and got it at 300 rand (about $100 at the time). When he asked for details on the box seat he was told it was Naas Botha’s, and the seller was his cousin. Naas Botha, for those not familiar, was an iconic South African flyhalf who had recently retired from the international game. He was the top point scorer in Springbok history at the time (a record that would stand until 2004).
A little incredulus on this claim Barry asked to be shown the private suite and by the way, “where is Naas”? His cousin obliged and said, “Naas is in with President Mandela, would you like to meet them”. It’s one of Barry’s great regrets that he didn’t accept the offer but in a very Canadian way said, “no that’s alright, I don’t want to bother them”. Barry got to watch the final from the suite, he was even able to get Lunk in as well and both enjoyed the hospitality. Well almost, during extra time as the game was still tied, the PA system blared out, “if extra time finishes in a draw, the team with the better disciplinary record in the tournament will be declared winner”. All South African eyes in the suite turned to the only two wearing Maple Leafs on their ScrumMaster shirts. This is where readers would need to know the history of the “1995 RWC Battle of Boet Erasmus” when the Canada v South Africa match turned into a brawl. Needless to say, South Africa wouldn’t win the “disciplinary record” tie-breaker and Springbok supporters would hold Canada, and Canadians, responsible for that. It ended well for Barry, Lunk and South Africa when Joel Stransky hit a drop goal seven minutes from time for the win.
There’s more stories from the South Africa trip, nights at a machine shop sharpening the 2″ bolts protruding from the rotating drum because they wouldn’t catch into the cement like ground at the Transvaal Rugby Union, getting their motor home broken into, tour of diamond mines in Kimberly, and the plush De Beers cricket ground meeting the scrum machine with sharpened 2″ bolts. I’m meeting Barry again for beers and stories, so maybe there will be more to add.
There is a Celebration of Life for Lunk on December 2nd at the Esquimalt Officers Mess. There will be a lot of stories told. There is a facebook page for the event if you’re thinking about attending, indicate there so they know numbers.
from the ScrumMaster website
The Inventor of the ScrumMaster product range is Kevin Wirachowski.
Trained as a world-class antique and unique car restorer, Kevin has been working for nearly 25 years with the goal of bringing the world’s best rugby training machines to market.
Starting with the state-of-the-art International in 1992, Interacting with rugby players & clubs thru-out the world, has led to a line innovative trainers, including the latest PowerTrainer™ ScrumLite™, a fully collapsible & transportable full size scrum trainer.
Kevin has been a capped international tight-head prop for Canada, having represented them in 20 Test Matches including several Pacific Tournaments. He has played representative rugby in the Americas, Asia and South Africa.
Kevin first began tinkering with Scrum machines in 1986 and finally built a new one, from scratch, in 1991. Since the first machine was produced the potential of his products has been obvious.
Over 25 years of intensive Research and Development, ScrumMaster at the forefront of the scrum machine market.