Cape Town - England coach Eddie Jones has hinted he will not pick his strongest squad for their three-Test tour against the Springboks in June.
Jones was speaking after England’s 24-15 Six Nations loss to Ireland at Twickenham over the weekend.
England, the Six Nations champions in both 2016 and 2017, could have regained second spot with a victory, but instead suffered a third successive defeat following away losses to Scotland and France as they were beaten at Twickenham for the first time under Australian coach Jones.
And with Wales edging France 14-13 later on Saturday, it meant England ended the Six Nations in a lowly fifth place - their worst finish since they finished bottom of the old Five Nations in 1983.
Jones warned some players involved in his side's defeat to Ireland would not represent their country again and he has now signalled he is ready to gamble by resting the players who went on last year's British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.
“We still have to look at how we look after the Lions players,” Jones told The Telegraph.
“That’s still a concern for us. We will do that and that was always in the plans, but otherwise we will select how we always select. We’ve always looked at that. We’ll just see if there are any players who will benefit more from not going on the tour."
The first Test between England and South Africa is scheduled for Ellis Park in Johannesburg on June 9, followed by Tests at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein (June 16) and Newlands in Cape Town (June 23).