Challengers out for Cook's Lions
South Africa had their summer perfectly planned out: they scheduled the one-day competition first to prepare players for a seven-match series against India, which was spoken about as step one of the building for the 2015 World Cup. That contest is now in doubt and even if it happens, it is likely to be severely shortened.
But the season cannot wait for the suits. While a decision is yet to be made on whether India will tour South Africa at all, never mind how many ODIs will be played, the domestic one-day competition will start on October 11. The national one-day squad is, by head coach Russel Domingo's own admission, still a work in progress, so even though he will be otherwise occupied with the series in the UAE, he will have half-an-eye on the tournament back home.
Here's what Domingo has to look forward to:
CAPTAIN: Justin Ontong
COACH: Paul Adams
IN: Hashim Amla, Sunil Narine
The joint-winners of last season's competition have made no significant changes to their squad; the acquisition of Hashim Amla and Sunil Narine will only become a factor in the 20-over competition. Their unit remains a settled one of experience and youth with the likes of Charl Langeveldt, Johann Louw, Justin Kemp and Andrew Puttick mentoring younger players such as Lizaad Williams and Yaseen Vallie.
Special attention was due to be paid to opening batsmen Richard Levi, who led the run charts in this format last season but has not done enough to earn himself a national recall. After his century in a T20 against New Zealand, Levi proved too loose outside the off stump and vulnerable against spin but has since made progress in both areas but he injured his back in late August and the latest news is that he could miss the first half of the tournament.
The injury is a setback for Levi who, with the South African top two yet to be decided, would be keen to heed Ontong's words that the selectors are on the lookout. "The national team in one-day cricket are still searching for game breakers," Ontong said. "So there's definitely opportunity for young guys to go out there and perform well."
CAPTAIN: Morne van Wyk
COACH: Lance Klusener
IN: Morne van Wyk, Graham Onions
OUT: Hashim Amla, Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Having not won a trophy in seven seasons, Dolphins will want to get their head above water quickly and mount a serious challenge this time. The first thing in their favour is the timing of the competition which may allow them to avoid the summer rains and too many no-results.
When they do get on the field, they will be a new-look outfit again. Morne van Wyk, the veteran wicketkeeper-batsman from Bloemfontein has moved to Durban to captain them and word is that he will also keep wicket in the shorter formats. That will free up former skipper Daryn Smit to bowl legspin - an art he neglected in favour of the gloves in recent seasons.
They will also have the services of Graham Onions to rely on, which will help plug the gap left by left-armer Lonwabo Tsotosbe who was their joint leading wicket-taker in this format last summer. A talent to keep an eye on is Calvin Savage, a young seam-bowling all-rounder who has already impressed in the amateur competition this summer.
CAPTAIN: Johann van der Wath
COACH: Sarel Cilliers
IN: Diego Rosier
OUT: Morne van Wyk, Ryan Bailey
Perennially lingering in mid-table, Knights have been forced out of the comfort zone with the departure of Morne van Wyk. Johann van der Wath will lead the side in his absence and attempt to inject energy into the side but he's set to miss some of the campaign with a calf injury; Nicky Boje will captain in his absence.
The Knights batsmen are usually among the top-scorers in the competition with Reeza Hendricks and Rilee Rossouw attempting to "knock down the door" - Domingo has asked them to finally be considered for the national team. Under-19 talent Diego Rosier is also part of their squad. After making waves at age-group level, Rossier has scored three half-centuries in four matches for Griqualand-West in the last two weeks and the Knights will hope he can translate that to the franchise scene.
In Ryan McLaren's absence due to national duty, it will be up to Quinton Friend to lead the attack. Malusi Siboto and Romano Terblanche will have to come of age quickly if the Knights are to pose an attacking threat with ball in hand.
CAPTAIN: Stephen Cook
COACH: Geoff Toyana
IN: Lonwabo Tsotsobe
The other half of last season's trophy belonged to Lions, who were the best-performing franchise of the 2012-13 season and this will be Geoff Toyana's first taste of second season pressure. They already experienced some of it at a disappointing Champions League T20, where they did not win a single match and will want to get back on the bike immediately at home.
Lions have a familiar-looking outfit, led by Stephen Cook who will also open the batting and will look to improve on his second-place finish in the batting rankings last summer. Their middle-order is held together by Neil McKenzie, around whom the younger players Temba Bavuma and Grant Mokoena will bat.
With exciting quicks in Hardus Viljoen, Chris Morris and Pumi Matshikwe and a spin contingent that includes Aaron Phangiso and Imran Tahir, and Jean Symes and Eddie Leie who could fill in if either are with the national side, Lions seem to have it all. That's why Cook said: "Other sides are really coming for us this season."
CAPTAIN: Henry Davids
COACH: Rob Walter
OUT: Martin van Jaarsveld
The other franchise who have already had a run out this summer are Titans and it was a decent one. If it was not for the weather, they may have gone further in the CLT20 and even though they didn't, it gave Rob Walter an opportunity to get to grips with his new job.
Walter has worked as South Africa's fitness and fielding coach and this is his first season in charge of a franchise. He has already had the players' buy-in on conditioning and infusing them with the "care" factor which worked for the national side. What he now needs is performance. Long-serving batsman, Martin van Jaarsveld, who also captained the team in the longer format recently, has retired, leaving the accomplished Henry Davids to do the job.
He will have Jacques Rudolph Albie Morkel and Roelof van der Merwe to back him up and the enthusiasm of youngsters like Mangaliso Mosehle and Shaun von Berg to nurture. Grooming David Wiese for international level will be one area of focus, ensuring Marchant de Lange is back at his best will be another.
CAPTAIN: Andrew Birch
COACH: Piet Botha
IN: Ryan Bailey
BACK IN: Rusty Theron
From winners of the domestic one-day cup three seasons ago to last place finishers last summer, Warriors have a lot to do. Andrew Birch will lead a side filled with talent but will need to mould that into something tangible.
Ashwell Prince is their senior statesman with Colin Ingram also able to add international clout to the line-up. Ryan Bailey, previously with Knights, will bring an all-round ability to their set-up.
What they will be most looking forward to is letting their bowlers run it at the opposition batsmen. With Ayabulela Gqamane, the youngster who grew up next door to Makhaya Ntini, Gurshwin Rabie and Wayne Parnell in their ranks, this seems to be the area of their game worth keeping an eye on.
Best of all, death-bowling specialist Rusty Theron has fully recovered from the stress fracture that kept him out of most of last season. The ability to bowl yorkers at the end of the innings is also something the national team are searching for which is why Theron would do well to announce himself this summer. "This is a good season to perform," Birch said.
With domestic cricket likely to take on a bigger focus because of the certain-to-be curtailed India tour, Birch's statement may have a greater meaning than just making sure players stake a claim for the national team.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent