MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The Melbourne Rebels have an unlikely ally in their bid to reach a maiden Super Rugby playoffs, with former World Cup-winning coach Jake White passing on advice before their crunch match against the Waikato Chiefs on Friday.
White, who led the Springboks to the 2007 World Cup triumph, gave Melbourne coach Dave Wessels a consolation call after his side were trounced 66-0 by champions Canterbury Crusaders over the weekend.
The Rebels need to beat the Chiefs at home on Saturday to reach the playoffs and Wessels said he was glad to get some tips from White, who led the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies to the 2013 Super Rugby final.
“Jake White rang me through the week and said if someone had offered you in January a home game against the Chiefs to make the finals you would have accepted that,” South Africa-born Wessels told reporters on Wednesday.
“I’m obviously a coach who is still learning a lot and there’s a couple of senior coaches like Jake who take a lot of trouble to communicate.
“They’ve been in the washing machine of it before and sometimes when you’re down you haven’t got a lot of people phoning you so I’m very grateful.
“I ask him for technical ideas but he’s helped me focus the messaging down a little bit.”
Wessels rested Wallabies scrumhalf Will Genia and had Quade Cooper on the bench for the Crusaders humiliation but has brought them both back into the starting side for Friday’s match at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
He will have to do without test lock Adam Coleman and Wallabies outside back Jack Maddocks, however, with both players rested with minor injuries.
The Rebels missed out on the playoffs last season after blowing a big lead in their final-round loss to the Otago Highlanders.
It was their eighth fruitless campaign in succession since joining the competition in 2011.
“We were pretty embarrassed about our performance last week,” said Wessels.
“(But) it’s showtime now for us. We’ve got an opportunity this week to do something pretty special for the club, something that we’ve never had the chance to do before.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)