Force field brainchild of Wessels
Force field brainchild of Wessels

By his own admission - and fortunately for the Western Force - senior assistant coach David Wessels was not much of a rugby player.

Had he been, it is unlikely he would be based in Perth and overseeing the Force's defence, which has proven the foundation for the team's five-game winning streak.

To say Wessels is highly regarded throughout the rugby community is an understatement.

He helped the Stormers become one of the most feared defensive outfits in Super Rugby and was at the Brumbies two years ago when they produced a defence that allowed fewer points than any side in the Australian conference.

"I was very hopeless as a player and realised I was probably better at speaking than I was at playing," Wessels said.

He started coaching under-age sides in South Africa, including the under-16 team at Rondebosch Boys' High School where he was mentored by former Springbok hooker Shaun Povey.

"I was lucky to be paired with him because my career probably got a bit accelerated. I was able to ride on his coat-tails a bit," Wessels said.

Two years ago he went to a presentation by another defence strategist, former rugby league international Les Kiss, who switched codes in 2001 and coached with Ireland, the Springboks and the Waratahs.

"I realised that there was a little bit more to defence than just running up and trying to tackle people," Wessels said.

"Defence is really like building a system. You can have as much tackle technique as you want, but it's putting people into position to make the tackle that's important.

"My real interest is trying to build the system around defence."

Wessels is reluctant to reveal too much, only saying the system he brought to the Force is unique.

"One of the things I find with our team is the guys are very athletic and very fit so we're focusing on making good decisions around the breakdown and getting on our feet and outworking the opposition," he said.

"It's not just guys getting up and filling in wherever they think. It is very easy to have big collisions early on in the game, but it's under fatigue where guys start making poor decisions.

"Our goal is to try and take much of the decision making out of it from a defensive perspective.

"Our guys work hard on a system that they understand and don't have to make too many decisions."

Wessels wants to ensure players who are good at certain types of contact are in the right areas. "We want props in the high-collision areas around the breakdown. We want the faster guys on the edge," he said.

"The challenge is how do you get from a set piece where all the players are and spread them out in a way that's beneficial?"

My real interest is trying to build the system around defence."David Wessels

The West Australian

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