THE Melbourne Rebels have scored a major victory by securing the signature of in-demand coach Dave Wessels on a two-year contract.
The recruitment of the former Western Force coach until the end of 2019 will be officially announced by the Rebels on Friday morning.
The signing - which will have major impact on the Rebels also recruiting several ex-Force stars - comes just two days after reports emerged in Ireland that Wessels was "close” to joining powerhouse province Munster.
Doubt over that news grew when the Rebels maintained privately they were still confident of getting their man, and Melbourne CEO Baden Stephenson and Wessels shook hands on the deal on Thursday.
"I'm very grateful to everyone at the Rebels and within Australian rugby for helping make this move possible,” Wessels said in a statement.
"For me, the decision was driven by a strong feeling of 'unfinished business' in Super Rugby.
"I'm very passionate about rugby, and the game in this country has provided me with the opportunity to fulfil my dream to coach professionally. Part of repaying this faith is realising the success that I know we're capable of.
"Make no mistake, our goal is to win Super Rugby. We're finalising an exciting group of coaches and players who will not only contribute to building an enviable and winning culture at the club, but who will progress us towards that ultimate goal.
"I'm excited about the prospect of coaching in Melbourne as the Rebels share many of the characteristics I have grown to love from my time in Western Australia: their players and fans have shared our uncertainity over the past couple of months and we are the 'outsiders' of the traditional powers in Australian rugby.
"These are very powerful galvanising forces for a club, and we're very motivated by the fact that it's 'us versus the rest'.”
Wessels is believed to have a list of 10-plus players he wants to bring from the Force ranks after their closure, including Dane Haylett-Petty and Jono Lance.
Many players have held off making the move until they knew what Wessels was doing.
The Wessels' signing will also help enormously with the Rebels' - and Australian rugby's - attempts to keep Wallabies lock Adam Coleman in the country. Coleman is weighing up overseas offers after the Force's axing.
"We're delighted that Dave will be joining us. He's one of the brightest and most sought-after coaches in world rugby,” Stephenson said.
"He showed real leadership through an incredibly difficult period at the Western Force and has demonstrated his ability to build a world-class rugby program.”
Speaking before Wessels' future with the Rebels was confirmed, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika praised the 35-year-old and said he hoped he would stay.
"Definitely I would,” Cheika said.
"He has done an outstanding job in Perth and I say that because I have seen the players that have come in here and how they've come in, with their attitude into the camp.
"Not that I have been spying on his sessions or anything. That's how I have known that. Him and the assistant coaches for that matter, Shaun Berne and Joe Barakat. I would really like to see them stay in Australian rugby for sure.”
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