"We're not here to make up the numbers, I certainly am not certainly not to do damage limitation. We hope to be competitive and that all starts with a positive outlook," Ashton said.
"There have been a lot of negative comments in the press lately and we addressed that as a squad yesterday (Tuesday). There is no negativity in this squad at the moment."
Instead, Ashton said he was hoping to unearth a few stars on the tour.
"We all hope the players perform as we expect them to and that some exceed those expectations."
The tour comes at a difficult time for Ashton with less than five months to their group clash with South Africa at the World Cup. However, that is not a factor on this tour, according to the coach.
"This tour comes at a time where we can achieve a lot ahead of the World Cup and it was required in our World Cup build-up as it was in South Africa's. There is still a lot of room to move before we finalise the squad at the end of June. There is a lot of work that still had to be done within our ranks.
"There is a group of players who are out here that will be doing everything they can to make that training group and there is equally a group at home who will be doing the same thing."
Ashton also dismissed talk there may be any advantage with an untried and untested group of players.
"I don't believe in psychological advantages and I am sure that Jake White has seen all the players so we have no advantage there. South African rugby is in a good state - you only have to see the fact that they have two teams in the Super 14 final to see the potential of their strength and we have massive respect for them."
England will prepare in Johannesburg at altitude before flying to Bloemfontein a day before the first Test.