Head of rugby Paul Gustard is under no illusion of the challenge his team face on their return to Premiership action on Sunday, as they prepare for the visit of English and European champions Saracens.

Following their final two games in this year’s Champions Cup - which featured a win at Bath before a home defeat to Clermont last time out - Quins turn their attention to climbing up the league table, in which they currently lie eighth.

But they could have hardly hoped for a tougher challenge than the visit of their London rivals, who will arrive at The Stoop looking to let their on-field actions do the talking after their automatic relegation was confirmed for persistent salary breaches.

There are changes afoot for both teams with many high-profile stars away on Six Nations duty, but club captain Chris Robshaw returns for the hosts, as well as hooker Elia Elia and centre Paul Lasike.

And while Saracens have named six changes from victory over Racing 92 in the pack alone, Gustard believes the Men in Black will provide a stern test that he hopes his side can stand up to.

“As always, the derby will be a keenly-contested match,” the 43-year-old said. “We have great respect for them as a rugby team and know we will have to be at our best.

“We know we’re going to face a very strong set-piece, a formidable defence and an outstanding kicking game. We have to live and survive in those areas and look for opportunities to counter.

“We want to show ambition and we want to play with the courage we’ve shown over the last two or three weeks to get the result we need.

“Both sides have players out due to injuries or internationals and we will be fully focused on the 23 men on the field.

“We’ve had another good week training, in preparation for this match, and we are confident going into the game with the support from our fans who we hope will turn up in full voice.”

Away from the match arena, Harlequins have announced the signing of powerful South African centre Andre Esterhuizen from the Sharks, who will link up with the club ahead of the 2020/21 season.

And back at home, Matt Symons and Luke Northmore have extended their current contracts, leaving Gustard excited about what the future holds for the 2011/12 English champions.

He added: “Andre is an incredible signing for us. He’s a current Springbok who has the ability to change any game, but he’s also the kind of character that we want in and around the camp.

“Symmo has long established himself as one of the most consistent and destructive locks in the league, and while Luke has had a frustrating time with injury we’ve seen his potential during his time with the club.”