A try from centre Will Greenwood and 20 points from the boot of Jonny Wilkinson earned the 25-6 win against the Springboks in a ferociously competitive game in Perth.
But that didn't stop Monday's sports pages in Australia being dominated by criticism of England and writing them off as 'vulnerable'.
'Ground lost in victory' was one verdict – 'Forwards soft under pressure' was another.
But first prize goes to the paper that carried a full-page picture of Wilkinson kicking at goal under the caption: 'Is that all you've got?'
"Every morning I get up and find the papers more and more amusing," said coach Clive Woodward.
"We admit it, attacking wise we didn't play at our best, although I thought defensively we were fantastic, but we won and I would like to keep reminding everybody that Test match rugby is all about winning."
Hooker Steve Thompson – still carrying bumps and bruises from the clash – also had a word or two for England's detractors.
The Northampton Saint and his front-row team-mates were made to work hard at the scrummage but England's line-out was good, and Thompson now reckons the team can improve their effectiveness around the pitch.
"I'm not bothered about the criticism. Everyone's entitled to their opinions and everyone looks for strengths and weaknesses – it's called freedom of speech," said Thompson.
"If we'd said afterwards 'well, that was okay' it wouldn't have been right. We know that the performance was not that great and we know how far we need to go. We can use that South Africa game as a benchmark.
"South Africa didn't score a try against us and we were very happy with our defence and happy to take our try. Sometimes that's all it needs."
Meanwhile, Sale Sharks back Jason Robinson just wants to get on with tackling Samoa – Pool C's leaders – who England meet at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne on Sunday.
"We knew the game against South Africa would be tough and they caused us problems. We'll just carry on playing our rugby," said Robinson.
"Defensively we were very secure against them, attacking we could have done more but I know that we can get better."
England have full respect fit the tough Samoans, whose mix of physical power and attacking skills earned them a 46-9 win against Georgia on Sunday night.
The Islanders have reached the quarter-finals twice in previous tournaments and their past victims include Wales, Argentina and Italy.
They top Pool C at the moment after picking up bonus points in their first two wins, and several of their players are active in the Zurich Premiership.
"It's certainly not an easy game," said Thompson. "Samoa have got some top players and play some great rugby.
"Hopefully we can make sure we won't be one more on their list of upsets. I watched their match last night and I was very impressed. I'm looking forward to this game against Samoa and I know the boys will be ready for it.
"It looks good when you can under-perform and win but there's still more to do and more to look forward to."