Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell have united in voicing England’s determination to defy their critics when they face South Africa at Ellis Park on Saturday.
A four-match losing sequence including last month’s non-cap international against the Barbarians has placed the Jones regime under scrutiny.
The Australian’s methods have attracted criticism off the pitch from the likes of Bath owner Bruce Craig while results suffer on it.
England have never won a series on South African soil and have triumphed in only three of their 13 previous Tests there, but Jones is backing his team to deliver the victory that will buy him some breathing space and act as the platform for the revival he believes is imminent.
“Everyone’s excited about this opportunity. Everyone’s bagging us, everyone’s saying we can’t win,” said Jones.
“From ex-players to ex-coaches, they’re saying we’re no good, so it’s a great opportunity for us to show we are of value. It’s a great challenge for us.
“We have a new side, a new team, a new captain and we want to play the game in a new way. It’s a great opportunity for us to start the march to the World Cup.
“Ultimately, to win the World Cup you have got to win these big games like beating South Africa in Ellis Park, so this is an opportunity for us to take a step forward.
“To me it is one of those things, growing up in rugby, who do you want to beat? South Africa at Ellis Park, All Blacks at Eden Park and as an Australian – England at Twickenham.
“They are the big games and we have got an opportunity on Saturday to do something special.”
Jones’s sentiments have been echoed by Farrell, the newly installed captain who knows it is a role he could be filling at next year’s World Cup given Dylan Hartley’s ongoing concussion problems.
The fiercely-competitive Saracens playmaker is the heartbeat of Jones’s England and has been stung by the reaction to the three successive losses that scarred the recent NatWest 6 Nations campaign.
“We learned a lot about ourselves in that competition,” the 26-year-old said.
“We were probably not as bad as everyone made out at the time, but the challenge now is to get excited about this weekend and to be able to take a knock and still come through it.
“Not just sticking in the game but for it to bring out the best in you. That’s something we’ll try and make sure happens.”
Billy Vunipola has returned at No 8 having missed 15 months of international duty because of injury, but while England insist he has trained fully this week there is a concern over the hamstring problem that stalked him throughout the Premiership play-offs.
Tom Curry joins him in the back row in an exciting selection that could signal the end of Jones’s search for a genuine openside, while Elliot Daly slots in at full-back with Mike Brown on the left wing.
Steve Borthwick, meanwhile, insists England are ready to rectify the flaws exposed in the Six Nations.
The breakdown and discipline were the areas that derailed England’s title defence and Borthwick says adjustments have been made as a result.
“The Six Nations taught us some lessons that we’ve had to take on board and learn. It gives us an opportunity to change certain things and change the way we train,” said forwards coach Borthwick.
“We’ve seen some changes in the game and we’ve had to change accordingly. We want to win, we want to win every game. We’re raring to go.”
Borthwick expects South Africa to display their trademark ferocity while also benefiting from the presence of a couple of familiar faces well known to England’s squad.
“Clearly there are some things that are consistent and fundamental to South African rugby, which is their physical nature,” said Borthwick.
“We know they’re also a very good side that are packed full of quality and pace. Our players know Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux very well from the Premiership. They have real pace in their back three.”
Siyi Kolisi will become the first black player to captain the Springboks’ Test team in their 126-year history today.