- Captain Dylan Hartley discusses the third and final Test vs SA
- “We want to lay down a marker for Twickenham in November” – Hartley
The series may be ceded to South Africa but England captain Dylan Hartley says there is no lack of motivation for the third Test against the Springboks in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
According to the Norhampton Saints hooker, who leads England for the first time on the occasion of his 42nd cap, there are no meaningless games in the Test arena and Stuart Lancaster’s side want to lay down marker before welcoming the Boks to Twickenham in the autumn.
And the 26-year-old, skippering the side due to Chris Robshaw’s thumb injury, believes they can carry some psychological advantage after surging back from 19 points down in the second Test to be within a try of snatching the lead.
“We can take a psychological advantage into the third Test because we’re an 80-minute team that will go to the end,” said the 26-year-old. “I have no doubt that South Africa are going to come and be full on but for us to take a scalp out here will be huge.
“In Test matches you want to win every game. I’ve heard [South Africa captain Jean] De Villiers say that he wants to win as well but as they’ve won the series I think we’ve got more to play for as a team.
“We want to go out of this tour with a win under our belts and that would lay down a marker for when they come over to Twickenham in November.”
Photo: Getty Images
Concurring with returning flanker James Haskell, Hartley says that ambition rests on winning the one-on-one collisions with South Africa’s big ball carriers and swiftly realigning as a connected defensive unit.
Adding that England’s high defensive standards from the RBS 6 Nations have fallen just enough to allow South Africa the ascendency, he said: “In both Test we’ve let them have periods of the game where they’ve got the momentum and they’ve scored soft tries. In the Six Nations we prided ourselves on our defence and that has slipped up a bit here.
“As South Africa have proved they’re a dangerous team when they get momentum and that is all about their big ball carriers getting over the gain line.
“So first and foremost it’s about stopping their big runners first phase, slowing their ball, resetting the ruck and getting off the line to get them again.”
Photo: Getty Images
Hartley is a strong leadership presence around the England camp but admits he is “overwhelmed” to be entrusted with the responsibility of captaining the team by Lancaster.
Retaining a playful sense of humour at the appropriate time is a one of the New Zealand born No.2’s strengths and it was evident in his discussion of his first international captain’s run, but only after outlining his intense pride in the position.
Hartley added: “It’s a huge honour and I’m a bit overwhelmed by it but I’ve got my head around it so it’s now business as usual. This is a privilege and one I’m taking with two hands, it’s unfortunate for Robbo [Chris Robshaw] but I’m flattered that Stuart came to me.
“It [captain’s run] is probably my favourite day of the training week: it’s player driven so the coaches just sit to the side and have no real input into training. We keep it short and sharp.
“The ten manages the game along with nine, so the captain’s run is more about Toby Flood and Danny Care taking charge of things.”