Rugby-Wessels quits as Rebels coach after missing Super Rugby AU playoffs

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Dave Wessels has stepped down as head coach of the Melbourne Rebels after they failed to reach the Super Rugby AU playoffs, the team said on Friday.

Wessels, who was appointed in 2017, will no longer coach the Rebels for next month's Trans-Tasman competition against New Zealand teams, but will spend the remainder of his contract in "a transitional role", the Rebels said in a statement.

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve reflected a lot and I feel the time is right to pass the baton to someone else," Wessels said in the statement.

"I’d like to thank the playing group here at the club, we’ve been unlucky this season, but I know with the type of men that you are, success is just around the corner."

Wessels, whose contract was set to expire at the end of 2021, came under pressure after the Rebels lost three home matches in succession this month to take their playoffs hopes out of their hands.

The Rebels won their last match away to the winless New South Wales Waratahs on Saturday but it was too-little-too-late, with the Western Force ensuring the Rebels' elimination by beating the Queensland Reds the previous evening.

Wessels' departure comes a week after Chief Executive Baden Stephenson insisted the coach would remain at the helm for the Trans-Tasman competition starting mid-May.

"Dave’s work ethic, detail, desire, generosity and leadership were hallmarks of his tenure and I look forward to working with him over the coming months to set the Club up for future success,” Stephenson said.

The Rebels did not announce a replacement but said they would work on a plan for the Trans-Tasman competition and "communicate decisions" next week.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Lincoln Feast.)