DURBAN (Reuters) - Under-fire England coach Eddie Jones has backed the commitment of his players and believes they will save their best for last to avoid a whitewash in the third and final test against South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday.
Jones has been criticized for a one-dimensional game-plan and his management style in the wake of a fifth test loss in a row when England were defeated 23-12 by the Springboks in Bloemfontein last weekend.
That result handed the series to the Boks by virtue of an unassailable 2-0 lead but England can end the disappointing tour on a positive note with victory at Newlands.
“We are disappointed to lose the series, these are tough times at the moment, but in terms of preparing for this week, we need to find a way to put our best performance out there on Saturday,” he told reporters.
“We have a great bunch of players, couldn’t work with a better team, they are so committed to be the best they can be and at the moment we’re not — we know that and understand that — but we are working at finding ways to be better.
“You have to stay together and believe the way you are doing things is right. The team is very together; the group of players we have here are working really well together.
“We were better on the weekend and we’ll be better this weekend.”
Jones says there is nothing unusual in his side’s slump and believes they will come out of it with a better chance of lifting the Rugby World Cup in Japan next year.
“Every team I’ve ever been involved with goes through these periods and you have to be able to get through it,” he said.
“They’re painful, and everyone knows better than you at the time, but once you get through it you have the hallmarks of a champion team and that is where we are going, I have no doubt about it.”
After winning 24 of his first 25 tests in charge, it appeared Jones could do no wrong, but he added it was unrealistic to expect that run to continue without hurdles along the way.
“You cannot just expect to keep winning endlessly,” he said.
“You have these periods when it’s tough, but you have to battle through it. It builds resilience, it builds the character of your team, it builds memories and once you get out of it you get a stronger team.”
If England lose on Saturday it will signal the worst run of form for the side since they lost seven tests in a row in 2006.
Jones could take some comfort from the fact that they made the World Cup final the following year where they lost to South Africa.
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by John O'Brien