The Rebels’ South African coach Dave Wessels has defended his coaching style and his team’s performances after he was criticised by former Wallabies centre Morgan Turinui.
Speaking on the Tight Five podcast on Sunday night, Turinui launched a scathing verbal attack on Wessels, saying the 38-year-old South African was not the right man for the job after failing to give the Rebels any serious success since taking charge of the team in 2018.
Turinui’s comments follow in the wake of the Rebels’ 31-23 loss to the Brumbies in round one of Super Rugby Au last week.
‘The really cold harsh fact around the Rebels is I just think Dave Wessels is not the answer,’ Turinui said.
‘They had two great opportunities, two great years, and they didn’t do it. They just didn’t have the environment there, the output, the tactical nous, the technical capabilities to perform and I don’t see any evidence that will change.
‘They’re doing some pretty basic things in attack. I don’t see development in their game.’
Wessels was quick to rebuff Turinui’s comments and point to the former Rebels assistant’s tenure at the club, which ended when Wessels was appointed as coach.
‘The reality is we haven’t played the way that we wanted to play,’ Wessels said. ‘Whether or not I take Morgan’s comments too seriously is probably another question, I mean Morgan won one game when he was in Melbourne.
‘I think he’s criticised our attack, but his attack scored 21 tries, we scored 56 the year after he left. He was just a member of staff that we didn’t keep on.’ Wessels said.
Turinui also made mention of Hunter Paisami and Jack Maddocks as players who failed to reach their peak at the Rebels before moving onto other Super Rugby teams.
‘I thought his comments around things like Jack Maddocks and Hunter was probably what I felt was quite harsh,’ Wessels explained.
‘Before I met Jack Maddocks, I think he’d played two or three Super Rugby games but by the end of 2018 he was one of the leading try scorers in the competition and a Wallaby as well.
‘Hunter was going well as a development player for us until he had an unfortunate incident in a nightclub and we had to release him.’
Wessels added Turinui’s criticism wouldn’t sit with him for long.
‘I think as a coaching group, we’ve always prided ourselves on having the humility to say when things haven’t gone well and why haven’t they gone well.
‘So, last week I had long conversations with guys like Eddie Jones and various people whose opinions I do trust, so I think we’re on a journey as a coaching staff.
‘I think I’ve never created the impression or given anyone the impression that I think we’re the finished product but I’m a lot better coach than I was say, three years ago, and I think we’re building something really special in Melbourne.
‘I think if somebody could come in and spend time with our group and see how connected they are and how much they care about each other and all the things that we’re working on, despite all the challenges, we’re on a pretty good path and that’s the only thing that really matters to me, to be honest.’
The Rebels take on the Reds in Sydney on Friday. Kick-off is at 11:05am South African time.
Photo: Melbourne Rebels