Ryan McGowan has sent South Africa a warning ahead of Monday night's friendly international, declaring the Socceroos won't go easy on the under-strength Bafana Bafana with World Cup places on the line.
The visitors have been hit by a host of withdrawals for their trip Down Under with the likes of experienced quintet Kagisho Dikgacoi, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bernard Parker, Tsepo Masilela and Itumeleng Khune all pulling out of Gordon Igesund's squad.
But with the first game in Brazil just three weeks away, the Shandong Luneng defender said there was no way the Socceroos would take pity on the South Africans.
Coach Ange Postecoglou still has seven players to trim from his final 23-man squad for the tournament, meaning every training session – and match – is a vital chance to impress.
"(Postecoglou) will want to get some rhythm to the game...he will want to see a few of the younger players I guess but at the same time he doesn't even like losing training sessions so I can't imagine if we have a bad performance he'll be too happy," McGowan said after the Socceroos fan day at Kogarah's Jubilee Oval.
"He'll definitely want to put on a show for all the fans that come out and we'll want to make sure we leave Australia on a high.
"They (South Africa) are a good team. Sometimes it makes it more difficult when they're a so-called second team because they will be wanting to go out and impress just as much as we are.
"The World Cup doesn’t come around to often so you need to make sure you're on your toes and want to impress.
"You saw out there (in training) there's a few tackles flying around...the boys don't want to lose even if it's just training. It's good to train like that, that's how you become a better player and the boys are really enjoying it."
If the 11 v 11 game at the end of Saturday's training session is anything to go by, McGowan will start in the centre of defence on Monday night alongside Matthew Spiranovic.
Brisbane Roar's Ivan Franjic was deployed at right-back, with Jason Davidson on the left in a very young and new-look back four.
While Western Sydney's Spiranovic is considered a certain starter for the opening World Cup clash against Chile on June 13, the other central-defensive spot appears open.
While the likes of Curtis Good, Bailey Wright and Alex Wilkinson are also vying for that spot, McGowan knows the door is open to lock the position down with a good performance at ANZ Stadium.
"I see it as an opportunity there but it's up to the boss as to who he thinks will do a good job," the 24-year-old said.
"If he picks me I need to make sure I go out there and do well, give him a selection headache and make sure that he knows he can trust me if he puts me in and try and do well for myself also.
"I've known him [Spiranovic] for quite a while coming through the younger teams but haven't really played with him too much.
"If we do get to play together on Monday it would be good to get that game time together."
Lucas Neill's omission has opened the door for McGowan to get a start in Brazil and he admits it would be a "great honour" to fill the former skipper's boots.
"All the boys have grown up respecting him and he was such a legend of the game," McGowan said of Neill.
"If I have half the career he had, I'll be doing alright."
Asked how tough the environment in the camp had been knowing not everyone will make the final squad, McGowan added: "It has been but it's also exciting.
"There's a possibility of being involved in a World Cup and you don't get to the level we are from resting on your laurels.
"It would be heartbreaking if you were one of the seven from this squad not to make it but at the same time it's a good achievement to make the 30."
Send Off the Socceroos
Socceroos vs South Africa, presented by NAB
Monday 26 May 2014 ANZ Stadium, Sydney Kick-off: 7.30pm
Tickets from $30, including public transport. Buy now!
ABC Grandstand will have live coverage of the match from 1900-2135 AEST on ABC Grandstand Digital across Australia, online and via the phone app.
You can also tune in on digital SBS Radio 3 and SBS Radio 4, Digital TV, online at sbs.com.au/radio or via the SBS Your Language App.
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