Super Rugby Aotearoa: Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan calls on fans to pack stadium against Crusaders

Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan has sent out a call to arms for his team's potentially season-defining clash against the Crusaders next week.

On Saturday, the Chiefs scored their third straight win of Super Rugby Aotearoa courtesy of a Damian McKenzie extra-time penalty goal to sink the Highlanders 26-23 in Dunedin.

If the Chiefs can somehow topple the defending champions in Hamilton next week, they would put themselves in serious contention for a spot in next month's final.

Either way, McMillan wants a packed-out FMG Stadium to provide a daunting cauldron for the Crusaders.

"We are making progress," says McMillan.

"I hope we can get a full stadium next week, get the passionate Chiefs fans behind us and we will give the current champions a real shakeup."

But a spot in the final is still on the distant horizon for McMillan, who says his side is far from the finished product and still have a lot to prove, despite turning a 0-2 start into a 3-2 record with three games to play.

"We are not a good enough side yet to get ahead of ourselves," he adds.

"It's been backs against the wall for us since week three of the competition. We have worked hard to improve our craft and get better and we feel like we are making small games each week.

"It didn't look great after a  couple of weeks but we have got back in the hunt with three wins."

Those small gains are what McMillan believes got the Chiefs over the line against the Highlanders, who had fought back brilliantly to tie the game late after trailing 23-13 midway through the second half.

The Chiefs repelled a Highlanders attack during the golden point period, before McKenzie drilled a 43-metre penalty to win the match in stunning fashion.

"We showed patience and courage tonight and when you do that it's an encouraging sign, because that is when the blowtorch is on you and in those moments you either step up or step down and we stepped up," McMillan notes.

"We have done it in a number of different ways. We came from 25 points down and snuck in front to score last minute and then again tonight we won late, but it would have been a lot easier on my heart if we had shut the game down at 23-13, but there are a lot of encouraging signs there for a young, developing squad."

Ultimately the Chiefs big players stood up in the absence of All Blacks skipper Sam Cane.

Luke Jacobson, Anton Lienert-Brown and McKenzie all starred in a complete team performance and for McMillan, that's been the secret to their recent success, as he looks to build depth within the squad.

"We believe in every single player in our squad and I believe you can't succeed in this competition by chucking out the same 16-17 players every week.

"Today they did well and that's exciting for us moving forward with so many young players."