Corne Krige claims England's Martin Johnson is "one of the dirtiest captains in world rugby".
But the South Africa skipper also says he has a lot of respect for his international rival as the two prepare to lock horns in the World Cup later this month.
And South African coach Rudolf Straeuli insists England are the favourites to win the tournament.
The Springboks meet England on 18 October in game that is likely to decide who finishes top of Pool C.
"Martin Johnson is one of the dirtiest captains in world rugby," Krige told a South African newspaper on the eve of his side's departure for Australia.
But the back-row forward added: "He is a good player and he gets his team behind him. For that you have to respect him."
Straeuli added: "England are definitely favourites but we are as ready as we can be.
"Just like in 1995 we might not be the best team on paper, but we will be the fittest."
Krige has been accused of playing dirty himself and came under fire after TV footage highlighted 11 cases of foul play from the Springbok skipper during last November's Test defeat against England at Twickenham.
But he insisted he had cleaned up his game.
"I have never played like I did at Twickenham since then," he said. "I said sorry to the people I needed to."
South Africa have been beset by problems of discipline over the past 12 months.
Against England, lock Jannes Labuschagne was sent off for a late barge on fly-half Jonny Wilkinson.
Earlier this year, prop Robbie Kempson and lock Bakkies Botha were suspended for four and eight weeks respectively after a match against Australia in Brisbane.
Kempson was found guilty of a high and dangerous tackle and Botha of reckless use of his hands.
The Springboks leave for Australia on Saturday and play their first match against Uruguay in Perth on 11 October.