NEW Heathcoat captain Brad Barnes has realistic ambitions for the season ahead, which starts with a trip to Exeter on Saturday.

Barnes, the former Western Province and KwaZulu-Natal keeper-batter, has returned to Knightshayes for a second summer and taken over the captaincy from Sam Smith.

Heathcoat finished 30 points clear of the relegation places last season, no improvement at all on 2014.

Barnes said Heathcoat didn’t always know how to win a match and the key to finishing in the top half of the Premier table is learning that skill.

“We underperformed at times last year,” said Barnes.

“There were times when we got into winning positions in games, but were unable to see it through.

“All of us – myself included – have to make sure when the game is there to be won we go on and win it.”

Barnes is no stranger to captaincy having led Natal B for a couple of seasons up to 2011.

Run-getter Smith, who divides his time between Tiverton and Bristol these days, has said he will be available for the majority of the season. Only Barnes (605) made more than Smith (501) for Heathcoat last term.

Heathcoat have lost Toby Lochead to Sandford, which leaves them 360 runs light in the early order.

New to the Knightshayes roster is Matt Rudston, a South African opening bowler and early order batsmen.

He comes from Cape Town, where he was a regular in the Bishop College 1st XI.

Otherwise it is much as you were with Barnes looking to the next generation to make names for themselves this season.

Jamie Drew, who is part of the Devon Lions development  progamme, Matt Hodgson and Will Thompson are all tipped as players to watch out for in future.

Two possible signings who never materialised were the Parr brothers – Brendon and Jason – who were with Heathcoat before dropping down the league to play for D East side Tiverton & Bickleigh.

Brendon has gone to Cullompton in the C Division East while Jason has committed to the 80-mile round trip to play in the C Division West for South Devon side Chelston & Kingskerswell.

There is cricket action at Heathcoat on Saturday where the 2nd XI face Exeter 2nd XI.