Danny Care wants to show how much he has matured following a troubled season by guiding Harlequins to a first Premiership title on Saturday.
The scrum-half, 25, on four occasions and was dropped from England's Six Nations squad.
"I owe a lot of people a big performance on Saturday," Care said. "I have learned a lot of hard lessons.
"To be thrown out of the England squad is the worst thing you could ever have happen to you as a player."
The Yorkshireman has not played for England since August 2011, but he will have the chance to impress coach Stuart Lancaster in the Aviva Premiership final against Leicester on Saturday.
And Care added: "It took me a while to realise that I am a professional rugby player, I am probably a role model to a few people and I needed to sort my life out.
"I took a long hard look in the mirror and did that. I have knuckled down and I am really loving playing again.
"There was a time when I wasn't really enjoying it - missing the Six Nations was heartbreaking but it was my own doing.
"It has been a tough few months but there is definitely that light at the end of the tunnel - and hopefully winning the Premiership on Saturday is that light."
Care is set to return from international exile next week after being named in England coach Lancaster's squad for a tour of South Africa.
Care has scored three tries in his last five games for Harlequins and, despite his troubles off the pitch, he is determined to show he has a part to play for England once again.
"I always believed in myself to get back if I could find my form," Care added.
"I have a lot of self-belief and, when I play to the top of my game, I can be challenging to be the best scrum-half in England."
Brian Ashton, a predecessor of Lancaster's as England head coach, has warned that his former side will need to improve on their Six Nations performances if they are to chalk up a first away win over the Springboks since 2000.
"There was slow, but noticeably progress in how they played in their last two or three games in the Six Nations, but they are going to have to go up two or three gears if they want to really trouble the South Africans," he told BBC Radio 5 live.
"It should be a challenge that Stuart Lancaster relishes, you want to play against the best in their own backyard and be successful."