Durban - England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster admits that touring South Africa is one of the “toughest” tasks in world rugby and they will need to be at their best to win.
The Roses arrived in the country on Thursday evening for a three-match Test series starting in Durban on June 9.
“We consider this one of the toughest tours to undertake in world rugby, to come to South Africa and play three Test matches,” Lancaster told reporters on Friday.
“We’re excited about the challenge, but also respectful of the challenge.
“South Africa did well in the World Cup, even though they didn’t quite get to the final stages.
“But with a new coaching team and new momentum behind them, it’s going to be tough.”
Heyneke Meyer’s men are not yet in camp for the series, but will gather in Durban on Sunday following the Super Rugby matches to be played over this weekend.
“There’s some big games this weekend,” Lancaster said, referring to the Lions clash against the Sharks and the Bulls at home to conference leaders, the Stormers.
“We’ll obviously be watching them closely.
“But beyond that, I’m sure they’ll be extremely motivated going into the Durban Test.”
The England boss also played down the significance of the opening match at Kings Park, which pundits have predicted will be key to deciding the outcome of the series.
“I think our focus is to go from one game to another and take it one at a time,” he said.
They trained for the first time at the Northwood Crusaders Rugby Club earlier on Friday and the coach said it was an enjoyable experience.
“We’ve really enjoyed our first day and first training session here.
“It was great and considering we stepped off a plane yesterday, you’d have thought there would be a bit of tiredness, but they didn’t show it.
“When you’ve got competition for places that's what the critical thing is. You know there’s a real energy and buzz.
“We’ve got some difficult selections to make over the weekend and as we build into next week, because we’ve got a lot of good players fit and in form.”
He also admitted that they were keen to improve their record in South Africa.
“I think where the northern hemisphere teams have struggled in the past was in coming to the southern hemisphere and competing.
“The southern hemisphere clearly hold the edge when they have a home series, so we expect a significant step-up in intensity and we want to make sure we’re ready to match them.”