Bafana Bafana striker Shaun Bartlett believes South Africa should start identifying and developing players for the 2010 World Cup.
The former national team captain is also adamant that Bafana need groom some of their youngsters now already, so that when the World Cup comes around, they will have the experience to handle it.
"We've lost so many great midfielders over the years, so the time has come to throw one or two youngsters in at the deep end," Bartlett told the Cape Times from the Bafana camp in Tunis, where they will take on Tunisia in an international friendly match.
"Timing is everything when one develops for the future. The country's best 17 and 18-year-olds should already be identified and nurtured for the 2010 World Cup. Young players need to sample the pressure that goes with international pressure."
Bartlett also insists that it is in midfield where Bafana are currently weak and added that coach Stuart Baxter is still working on combinations for the middle of the park.
And the withdrawal of Manchester United midfielder Quinton Fortune, who was earmarked for the holding role in midfield alongside playmaker Steven Pienaar, has added to Baxter's woes.
"We do have a problem in the middle," added Baxter. "The coach needs to find a consistent midfield combination if we're to challenge strongly for a place in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
"Playing in front of a midfield not on the same wavelength does affect the role of the strikers. the result is that the front men have to keep dropping deep in search of the ball when they should be running onto it behind the opposition defence."
The Charlton Athletic striker is hoping they produce the goods against Tunisia and added that Bafana should improve their results away from home.
"We need a good result to help build the team's confidence for (next month's) Congo match," he added.
"That's going to be a tough trip. It's time we become better travellers to help ease the pressure during our qualifying campaign."