Jeremy Brockie says the All Whites' Friday night match against South Africa represents a stepping stone on the road to 2018 World Cup qualification.
With this year's World Cup only 15 days away, Brockie says there's a definite sting having not made it to Brazil after the momentum built by the All Whites' undefeated 2010 campaign.
But, Brockie says, the four-year rebuild towards Russia must be taken seriously, and immediately.
After a 4-2 loss to Japan in March, which saw the All Whites regroup from a sloppy start, Friday's match against South Africa is the continuation of the national side's new era under manager Neil Emblen.
Emblen, who at least temporarily holds the reins while New Zealand Football goes through the process of appointing a permanent replacement for Ricki Herbert and has his hat in the ring for the job fulltime, is intent on getting the All Whites to move away from the direct style synonymous with Herbert.
Brockie says such a shift has not been lost on established players and, when coupled with inexperienced players who have been expedited into the ranks with many senior players unavailable, it's the recipe for a new direction.
"I think what Emblen is trying to do is get us to get the ball down and start playing football - get away from what we've been playing in previous years," Brockie said.
"If we don't get the result, football people will see that change, because the goal is to get to Russia 2018 and while we want to win the game against South Africa this week, it's a small building step towards a bigger goal.
"Obviously, we want to go out there and win, we don't get to play many games here in New Zealand, so if we can get a win it will give the game a bit of a boost here too."
Many of the squad watched South Africa's 1-1 draw against Australia on Monday night, an unexpected result with Bafana Bafana having 11 top players unavailable against a side preparing for the World Cup.
"We streamed it, a few of the boys watched it. I thought South Africa were quite good. Obviously, there's been a lot of talk about players not turning up but they gave a good Australian squad a run for their money. Hopefully the result they got should help attract a few more people," Brockie said.
"They're quite unpredictable on the ball, they play with flair and freedom and aren't worried about losing the ball when they've got it."
With the domestic season at an end, Brockie says his fitness is somewhat questionable. But regardless, he seems to think it will be the inexperienced players who take centre stage on Friday any way.
"If I'm honest, my fitness isn't 100 per cent. We did get programmes from our strength and conditioning coach at the Phoenix. It's good to touch a ball this week, that's for sure," he said.
"But I think a lot, if not all, of the young ones will get a run at some stage. There's some exciting talent here and it will be interesting to see what happens."
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