December 6 2011, sport, story by Lee Gaskin, picture by STUART WALMSLEY. The ACT Brumbies train at the club’s headquarters in Griffith, Canberra. Defence consultant Dave Wessels. Photo: Stuart WalmsleyDave Wessels was the odd man out when he arrived at the ACT Brumbies, but he said his time with World Cup winners and brilliant rugby minds set him on a path to coach the Western Force.
Wessels will return to Canberra Stadium as the enemy on Friday night when he leads the top-of-the-Australian conference Force in a clash against the Brumbies.
South African-born Wessels moved to Australia six years ago to join the Brumbies as a defensive consultant to work alongside Jake White, Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher.
White and Larkham have both won World Cups while Fisher is regarded as one of the best forwards coaches in international rugby.
Wessels used his time wisely, picking the trio’s brains before being giving the job of leading the Force this year.
“The biggest thing I took out of being at the Brumbies was just being able to sit in a room with those three,” Wessels said.
“They are some of the best coaches going around so being in Canberra was like being at a university of rugby for me.
“I was very raw at the time so I really just tried hard not to be noticed too much. But I think it was a great experience for me and it’s had a big effect on my coaching.”
The Force have surprised many this year and beat the highly-rated Queensland Reds last weekend to score their first win at home in almost two years.
The Force haven’t won two games in a row anywhere since 2014.
It sets up a massive clash against the Brumbies, who have lost their first two matches for their worst start to a season since 1999.
The Brumbies have won the past six matches against the Force, but history will count for little as both teams rebuild after major changes in the off-season.
The Brumbies recruited Kyle Godwin and Chris Alcock from the Force, while Wessels stepped up as coach in Perth and convinced former ACT fullback Robbie Coleman to join him.
Perth junior Godwin and journeyman Alcock will both start against their old club while Coleman looms as a second-half X-factor from the Force’s bench.
Asked what Brumbies fans could expect from the Force, Wessels grinned: “Some surprises.
“Sometimes the Force has been guilty of playing to lose. We’ve talked as a group about playing to win.
“That means every now and then we’ll get bumped on our arse and we understand that. But ultimately we want to win and have people be proud of the team.”
The Brumbies haven’t lost three games in a row since 2011 and are desperate to turn around their form.
“The Force are going to be hard at the breakdown and we’re prepared for that,” said Brumbies fullback Aidan Toua.
“We’ve gone through the last couple of games and we’ve been so close, so our general game is OK. It’s just about the finer detail that we’ve lacked in some areas of the game.
“I think both [Alcock and Godwin] are eager to play this weekend, results haven’t gone our way so far, so we’re really excited for this weekend.”
CANBERRA UNITED STAR TO DELIVER GAME BALL
The ACT Brumbies will turn to one of Canberra’s best female athletes for extra inspiration to chase their first win against the Force.
Canberra United star Michelle Heyman will be given coin-toss duties and deliver the game ball on to Canberra Stadium before kick-off to recognise her for winning the LGBTI sports personality of the year.
Brumbies chief executive Michael Thomson said: “It’s a great way to recognise another Canberra athlete and we are very happy she will be a part of our game day.”
Striker Heyman is a two-time W-League Golden Boot winner and played for the Australian Matildas at the Rio Olympic Games last year.
SUPER RUGBY ROUND THREE
Friday: ACT Brumbies v Western Force at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.
Brumbies team: 15. Aidan Toua, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Kyle Godwin, 11. James Dargaville, 10. Wharenui Hawera, 9. Joe Powell, 8. Jordan Smiler, 7. Chris Alcock, 6. Ben Hyne, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Rory Arnold, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Josh Mann-Rea, 1. Ben Alexander. Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Nic Mayhew, 18. Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Blake Enever, 20. Tom Staniforth, 21. Lolo Fakaosilea, 22. De Wet Roos, 23. Andrew Smith.
Force team: 15. Dane Haylett-Petty, 14. Chance Peni, 13. Curtis Rona, 12. Billy Meakes, 11. Luke Morahan, 10. Jono Lance, 9. Ryan Louwrens, 8. Richard Hardwick, 7. Kane Koteka, 6. Brynard Stander, 5. Matt Philip, 4. Ross Haylett-Petty, 3. Tetera Faulkner, 2. Heath Tessmann, 1. Pek Cowan. Reserves: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17. Ben Daley, 18. Jermaine Ainsley, 19. Onehunga Havili Kaufusi, 20. Isi Naisarani, 21. Michael Ruru, 22. Ian Prior, 23. Robbie Coleman.
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