The All Whites had their chances and South Africa had more, but the end result was a scoreless draw at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium on Friday night.
The New Zealand goalkeeper and captain Glen Moss was by far the busier custodian, Moss having to come almost 30 yards off his line early on to clear a long ball that a South African striker was racing onto, as well as an outstanding double save with about 10 minutes remaining.
The visitors also hit the crossbar before half-time, with Moss beaten, but that shot had taken a deflection from an offside player and wouldn't have counted.
The best chances for the hosts came to Marco Rojas at the 26-minute mark, and Tyler Boyd on 51 minutes, but both youngsters pushed the ball wide of the posts.
South Africa dominated the second half and the out-of-season nature of what was a one-off game for the New Zealanders told as the game wore on, Bafana Bafana's extra game against Australia perhaps standing them in better stead.
And Michael Boxall - who the interim All Whites head coach Neil Emblen picked out as having an outstanding game - and Tim Payne both earned yellow cards for scything down opposition players who were threatening to open up the defence.
The match was the one hundredth draw for the All Whites in their 580th game, in front of 9,266 fans.
There were debuts in second-half substitutions for Jason Hicks, James Musa, Matt Ridenton and Tamati Williams.
Afterwards Emblen said he was happy with the exercise, and he can see how the new breed can be even better than the 2010 All Whites, who went undefeated at that year's World Cup in South Africa.
But the scoreless draw still hasn't persuaded the interim All Whites head coach to apply for the permanent role - though Emblen says he feels he's ready.
However he says he doesn't feel he needs to apply for the job, and insists New Zealand Football knows where to find him.
Emblen's filled in since Ricki Herbert departed last November, the Englishman taking charge for the friendlies against Japan in March and the 0-0 result at Mt Smart.
The youthful All Whites appear to have turned a corner in playing style under Emblen, who says he's tried to give the players the freedom to express themselves, and he thinks they've also improved defensively.
Emblen had a 4-2 loss to Japan in Tokyo in his first game in charge on an interim basis, where the youngsters were over-run in the first 20 or so minutes, conceding all four goals before coming right back and even dominating - so he says the players learnt from that, and didn't give the ball away in bad positions by over-playing.