Harlequins captain Stephan Lewies believes that being one of just two clubs in the Premiership to sell out their season tickets for the 2022-23 campaign can propel them towards the play-offs.
Quins and Bath announced in recent weeks that their allocation of season tickets – usually around two thirds of stadium capacity – had sold out well in advance of the return of English club rugby next month.
“Our fans have been crazy the last few years,” Lewies told City A.M. “It started after the pandemic at the Bristol Bears semi-final and then we felt the same thing when we played London Irish away last season. It definitely makes a difference to us as players.
“It is motivating because you want to perform well for your fans and we know they spend a lot of money and time coming out to watch us and they’re always supporting us.”
Harlequins have built on their tradition of hosting an annual Big Game at nearby Twickenham by adding a second match at English rugby’s headquarters during the summer.
Last year they took on Northampton Saints in their Big Game and then Gloucester in their summer match. Next season it will be Bristol and Bath.
“We’re the only club in the world that really gets 80,000-plus club fans for a fixture,” Lewies added. “When they sing your club’s songs it’s unreal.
“I think it is a big attraction for players coming to Quins, it is something that they look forward to too.
“I remember when Andre [Esterhuizen, Harlequins centre] was looking to sign somewhere in the Premiership it was something we spoke about and it was something that excited him.
“Since I’ve been here we haven’t lost one, so hopefully we can keep that success going.”
Quins start the new campaign away to Newcastle Falcons on 10 September, before hosting 2021-22 runners-up Saracens in the second round.
Premiership chiefs have this year ensured that the biggest derbies in the league – notably Harlequins’ meeting with Saracens, Bath’s fixtures against Gloucester and Northampton Saints’ dates with Leicester Tigers – do not clash with international fixtures, after key matches took place without their biggest stars last season.
As defending champions, Harlequins fell short of the Premiership final last year. Next term they hope to return to the showpiece fixture, but Lewies is under no illusions as to the challenges facing him and his team.
“[Not making the final] is the hard learning from last season, we always want to get better,” Lewies said. “We’ve already spoken about big players stepping up in big games and learning from those games.
“It’s a long old season and nothing is guaranteed as we saw this season. The top four looked completely different [to the year before], and I assume it might be different again this year.
“We don’t know if we will be in the top four this season, obviously that’s our goal – I think and I hope that it is every other team’s goal to be in the top four as well.”