DYLAN HARTLEY has urged England to look to Chicago for inspiration as they seek to end a decade of failure against South Africa.
The autumn series at Twickenham opens with today’s visit of the Springboks in a showdown that pits their 10-year dominance of the fixture against the flawless nine-Test triumphant run established under Eddie Jones.
One of the records must fall and Hartley has noted the recent seismic sporting events in Chicago that saw Ireland topple New Zealand for the first time in their history and the Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years.
Rather than dwell on England’s sequence against South Africa of nine defeats and a draw, Hartley believes the time has come to take the next step towards their own goal of global domination.
“Whatever happened in the past, the Irish wrote their own history and the Cubs wrote their own history, so we want to do the same as a team. We want to write our own history,” the captain said.
“We are a team that have got a goal under Eddie Jones to be the best in the world and winning this game at the weekend is a huge step for us going forward as a team.
“Losses and wins are all in the past. We have been building for this game for a long, long time. The team is prepared and are desperate to win.
“The thing for us is the next step as a team. We are always focusing on the next game. Beating South Africa this weekend is just next step in this team’s progression.”
England have built an impressive head of steam under Jones with a Grand Slam and 3-0 series whitewash of Australia among the results that have lifted them to second in the world rankings.
But Hartley insists they start from scratch against South Africa while drawing strength from the knowledge they are heading in the right direction.
“It’s not a momentum roll. If we had played the Australia series and then we’d gone straight into playing South Africa, then we could take momentum from that,” Hartley said.
“What we can take from it is experience – we know that we’ve been in tough corners before and we’ve fought our way out.
“During our last Test in Australia in June we showed character there, especially in the final 20 minutes of that game, which was unbelievable.
“When the chips are down you look around and you see the characters you’ve got in your team because you know you’ve been in tough situations with these guys before.
“So it’s not so much about momentum, it’s about experiences and trusting your team-mates, knowing what it takes to regain control of the game or make the final push to win a game.
“People talk about us being on a run, but that is only on paper. We have drawn a line under those matches.
“If you talk about momentum, well we have just come together as a team.
“South Africa are at the end of a season so they are battle-hardened and together as a team.
“But we need to find that Test match intensity in those opening exchanges and get up to speed pretty sharpish because they have been playing week-in, week-out.”
Hartley has played only twice since recovering from a back injury sustained in early September, but the hooker insists he is ready to win his 76th cap this afternoon.
“I had a dodgy back, but it was a long time ago and I feel great. I had some time off and I’ve played two games for Northampton. Not full games, but the way we train and prepare….it’s faster than a game,” Hartley said.