England assistant coach Graham Thorpe wants players to use their experience of the 1-0 Test series defeat in New Zealand to develop a harder edge.

Joe Root's side is back in action in South Africa later this month, with the first of four Tests starting on Boxing Day at Centurion.

James Anderson, Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow are expected to return to the squad having sat out the trip to New Zealand, where a draw in Hamilton meant the tourist was unable to overturn an innings defeat in the first Test at Mount Maunganui.

Nevertheless, Thorpe acknowledges there is a bigger picture to consider when it comes to England developing its Test game under new head coach Chris Silverwood – namely the next chance to regain the Ashes in 2021-22.

"We've got to keep developing our players, no doubt about that. They have to ask themselves when they come away from a trip like this: where can I get better?" said Thorpe, as quoted by The Guardian .

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"Because the big picture is that down the line, in a couple of years' time, we'll need resilient cricketers going to Australia.

"It’s down to our players to be honest and for us to be honest with them.

"If we are going to keep trying to go up that Test ladder and really compete abroad then we have to keep challenging the players along the way."

Skipper Root pointed the way to a large extent with a welcome return to form last time out, amassing a brilliant 226, the third double-century of his Test career.

"It’s great to see Root back and scoring some runs and how he is in the dressing room as well – that’s great for his confidence," Thorpe added. "But he was already held in very high esteem, so he’s just confirmed that and also that he’s a world-class player.

"We've talked a certain way about batting a long time and I think we mustn't misinterpret that. For me, it’s just getting a big first-innings score – a 500-run target.

"That's a good way of selling it to the players. And if Joe can produce more performances like that, we've got more chances of getting that sort of total."

Thorpe will be joined in England's backroom team by Jeetan Patel for the trip to South Africa and subsequent tour of Sri Lanka.

The Warwickshire spinner has been appointed as spin bowling consultant after working with Silverwood's squad during the triumphant five-match Twenty20 series against New Zealand.