May 12, 2021

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Legend's brutal call on Super Rugby coach

3 min read
Wallabies legend Tim Horan says Rebels coach Dave Wessels is a "dead man walking" unless...

Wallabies legend Tim Horan says Rebels coach Dave Wessels is a "dead man walking" unless he can somehow guide the Melbourne club into the Super Rugby AU grand final in Brisbane on May 8.

The Rebels, poor sporting cousins in AFL mad Melbourne, are having yet another underwhelming season and sit fourth in the five team competition with a 2-5 record.

And the spotlight is understandably shining on Wessels, who is in his fourth season at the Rebels helm.

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The South African coach got the gig after doing a manful job with the Force in the 2017 season in which they got the highly controversial Super Rugby bullet from Rugby Australia.

Wessels engineered immediate improvement with a Rebels team that had won just one game in 2017 – guiding them to back-to-back 7-9 seasons in 2018 and 2019.

But despite having some talented rosters at his disposal, the genial Wessels has been unable to take the next step of helping make the Rebels a genuine title contender.

His overall record with the Rebels is 23 wins, 29 losses and one draw.

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"Dave Wessels, I think he's under a lot of pressure now," Horan said on Stan Sport's Rugby Heaven on Tuesday night.

"He's been there for four years. Win, lose or draw (against the winless Waratahs on Saturday) – I think he's probably going to struggle to retain his position as coach.

"Maybe they make the call early and give someone else the opportunity through trans-Tasman (the combined Super Rugby competition kicking off on May 14).

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"The only way I think Dave Wessels is going to keep his job is if he wins on Saturday night, and they go and play the Brumbies and beat the Brumbies in Canberra (in the qualifying final) to make the final (against the Reds).

"Otherwise I think he's probably a dead man walking. Good young coach and hopefully he continues on but he's had four years at the club now."

Horan pointed to Rebels assistant coach Kevin Foote – a former South African sevens player – as a potential replacement should the board elect to part ways with Wessels.

"They may give him an opportunity early on, maybe through trans-Tasman and then see who's available," Horan said.

"But he's (Wessels) had four years down there and I just think they probably need to restructure that coaching team to try and bring the Rebels through."

Fellow Rugby Heaven panelist Morgan Turinui is well placed to pass judgement as a former Rebels assistant coach.

He said Wessels' case for survival might be helped by "the lack of a really obvious successor."

But Turinui argued that if the Rebels decided it was time for a fresh start, the board should act with urgency.

"If they decide it's time up, they may as well rip off the band-aid and start again," the former Wallaby said.

"Why would you waste time if you've made the decision? I'm not saying they should or they shouldn't. If you've made the decision, don't wait, why wait?

"Because if you want a change and improvement, want the team to play in a different way, you want a change in direction – then make the change. If you want to back Dave Wessels, back him."

Horan added that whoever holds the coaching reins going forward will face some significant challenges with star players mulling offers from other clubs.

"(Marika) Koroibete's going to go, by the look of it, Isi Naisarani looks like he's going as well," Horan said.

"Matt To'omua is key – as long as Matt To'omua stays you can build a team around Matt To'omua. But it's tough when you're losing players."

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