Sydney Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello says bitter arch-rivals South Sydney will again be a major hurdle in the tricolours' quest for the NRL premiership.
The Roosters defeated the Rabbitohs in an epic final-round battle for the minor premiership on their way to taking out the 2013 title before as Souths stumbled and fell on the other side of the draw one game short of the decider.
The two sides are scheduled to meet in a blockbuster start to the NRL season on March 6 and Minichiello says the Rabbitohs are again one of the teams to beat.
"Ever since I have been at the club and a lot longer there has been great rivalry," said Minichiello, who launched the new season on Wednesday night.
"Souths will improve again. They are a big powerful team it will be a great clash.
"We need improve as well. Hopefully we can build through the year."
The Roosters will strive to become the first side to claim back-to-back titles since Brisbane in 1992-93. But the 275-game veteran who is entering his 15th season of NRL said the Roosters could not afford to focus on that.
"It's going to be tough there is no doubt about that," Minichiello said.
"Every team in the pre-season strives to be better and we have done that as well.
"We know we will be hunted this year and we are looking forward to that.
"We have pretty much have the same team as last year, we know our structures now and hopefully we can improve on that.
"But you can't get ahead of yourselves as individuals or as a team.
"You have to continue to do the little things right each day and the build up to the bigger goal at the end."