Johannesburg - The Highveld Lions expect a stiff challenge from South Africa's other top-flight teams when they go in search of their first four-day trophy of the franchise era at the start of the domestic cricket season on Thursday, said captain Alviro Petersen.
The Lions host the Cape Cobras in Potchefstroom in their opening match of the Sunfoil Series, and the Knights face title holders the Titans in Kimberley.
"The Titans, as the defending champions, have been playing some good cricket," Petersen said this week.
"They played a good brand of cricket, but it could have gone either way [last season].
"They could have lost a few more games and then people would say it has been a disaster, so that's the margins in cricket.
"I think the Cobras will always be a force and then the Knights are quite steady, and I'm also not throwing away the Dolphins and the Warriors."
Petersen said it was crucial for the Lions' players, under new coach Geoffrey Toyana, to understand the team's rotation policy and to see the bigger picture as they looked to add some much-needed silverware to the Gauteng Cricket trophy cabinet.
"We've got a lot of players here and not everyone will play, but it's important that those players understand where they are going," Petersen said.
"They have a clear role as to what we want them to do and that they understand how they are going to get there.
"We've spoken about it, and yes, there might be challenges along the way, but it's all about the management of those players.
"I think it's something that we will keep a lid on."
While it would disrupt their season, Petersen, a top-order batsman for the Proteas, hoped more of the Lions' players would be able to earn places in the national squad.
"I know it can be a distraction when guys are in-and-out, but we are trying to get players to play for South Africa," he said.
"That's one of our goals. It's our vision to get these guys to want to play for SA.
"It's important for the guys to understand that when they are here, we are Lions' players and when we play for South Africa, we are South African players."