Bafana coach Baxter in firing line over continuous selection of Furman
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter had a lot of questions to answer on Tuesday after he announced his squad for the Four Nations Cup in Zambia and his persistent selection of SuperSport United midfielder Dean Furman was one of the most difficult to handle.
Baxter had indicated a week before announcing his first squad of the year that his emphasis would be on blooding in youngsters who had the potential to represent South Africa at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Cameroon next year.
But when he named the team on Tuesday the Briton had a few experienced players that he said would help guide the youngsters. Furman was one of them.
Since Baxter took over coaching Bafana in May last year Furman has been a permanent feature in his squad‚ with only the suspension seeing him being omitted.
But with Furman's form arguably not at its best at the moment and his team struggling to get results in the league since their loss in the CAF Confederation Cup in November last year‚ it was expected that the midfielder would make way for other deserving candidates.
"I think Dean Furman's got a lot of qualities that the other people don't have‚ simply as that‚" explained Baxter.
"We complain all the time that we're not mentally strong but he is the most mentally strong of players in that squad‚ and yet we question it."
Baxter's selection of Furman raised a few eyebrows as he ignored several players that could have fit the mould‚ including Cape Town City's Thabo Nodada‚ and the Mamelodi Sundowns duo of Hlompho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda‚ among others.
If Baxter talks about the mental character as his main prerequisite for selection‚ Mabunda and Kekana are equally strong midfield players mentally and both have a better distribution than Furman‚ who often wastes possession.
"Furman's got a lot of qualities that a normal PSL player in South Africa doesn't have and that's why he gives us squad balance‚" reasoned Baxter.
"I think any national team coach will select the team that he thinks is his best. Favourites... favourites you cannot afford to have.
"When I look at what Dean Furman does for his club‚ when I look at the mental characteristics that he has‚ he has what other people don't have."
"He therefore balances the squad in a way that probably some other players can't."