Llanelli hunt Wessels but Rebels confident of keeping coach

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

Melbourne boss Baden Stephenson is confident Dave Wessels can be locked down at the Rebels long-term despite the coach being pursued by big Welsh club Llanelli.

Reports have emerged that Wessels, the former Western Force coach, has become the no.1 target for the Scarlets to replace the departing Wayne Pivac, after Canterbury coach Rob Penney withdrew from a deal. 

WalesOnline reported that Wessels had interviewed for Scarlets job recently.

The 36-year-old is off contract with Melbourne at the end of the 2019 season.

“I am confident Dave is happy here in Melbourne and I am certainly hopeful he will stay,” Stephenson told RUGBY.com.au.

“I am talking to Rugby Australia about extending his contract for another couple of years, and that process is well underway. He is certainly the guy we want to lead the club for the next few years.

“He is very, very committed to ripping into 2019 and we are very, very keen to keep him. He is enjoying the role and enjoying the challenge and wanting to build on what he started.”

And in a positive development for the Rebels, the Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday the Scarlets would not be getting their man.

"I'm loving my time in Melbourne and I would like to stay here as long as possible," Wessels told the paper.

"We don't really have any intention of leaving at this point. It's not like we were talking numbers with the Scarlets."

It’s not the first time Wessels has been chased by a Pro14 club. He was close to joining Munster prior to joining the Rebels from the Force in late 2017.

As part of a push to centralise coaching structures in Australia, Rugby AU are increasingly involved in Super Rugby coaching staff contracts and Wessels – and his assistants – were among the first under that set-up when they came from Perth. Other states have similar arrangements.

Stephenson said in collaboration with Rugby AU boss of high performance Ben Whitaker, he hoped to be able to put forward a picture of career progression to the “aspirational” Wessels.

“If he continues to develop, hopefully he does progress into the Wallabies ranks down the track,” Stephenson said.

“He is pretty aspirational but he is also realistic. He knows we have get some success, and he’s only 36 so he knows he has time to grow. But listen Dave is a high quality coach and I know we will be doing everything we can to keep him.”

Reports in Wales indicated the Scarletts club expected to announce by this week who will be their next head coach.

Asked about timings, Stephenson said he hoped to have a new contract with Wessels locked in his safe “by Christmas”.

“If we can do that we can roll into ‘19 without distractions and it sends a clear message not only to our playing group but our staff and the whole rugby community down here that we have very high quality people on board,” Stephenson said.