Super Rugby Aotearoa: Chiefs Coach Clayton McMillan hails his side's character, culture for turning season around

Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan has hailed the character of his side as they edged the Crusaders 26-25 in a Super Rugby Aotearoa nailbiter on Saturday. 

The Chiefs are becoming masters or closing out tight finishes, after coming off a golden-point victory against the Highlanders and a tight victory over the Blues the week before, which has McMillan singing the praises of his side. 

"We've been having close ones the last four weeks, which isn't making life for my heart any better but I'm really proud of the boys," McMillan says. "I think character is the keyword for me. We obviously had our backs against the wall early in the competition and none of our wins have been comprehensive or pretty, so we've just had to guts, scrap, fight for every inch. 

"Our game has got better but everyone's else's has as well, so I'm just stoked for the boys as they have worked hard for this but the job is not done."

The victory is crucial for the Chiefs as it puts them in pole position for a spot in the final with two matches to play. 

The home side have Hurricanes next week followed by the Blues, and should the Crusaders slip up against the faltering Auckland side next week, two wins will see the final take place in Hamilton.

This is a remarkable achievement given they started the season on an 11-game losing run but it's something that doesn't surprise McMillan.

"Internally we are a really tight group," McMillan added. "I have been involved with lots of teams where I think teams have the ability to perhaps overachieve if they get the culture right and understand your playing for something bigger than yourself. 

"This team has done that really well, right from day one. When people weren't backing us and they were consumed with losing records, we weren't and we aren't consumed with winning ones either."

One player that again showed his class was Damian McKenzie who kicked the game winning penalty goal for the second week running. 

The 25-year-old was handed his first start in the No.10 jersey this season and he steered his side round the park brilliantly whilst also showcasing his trademark distribution. 

"That's why he gets paid the big bucks," McMillian says. "He's a quality player and he's on the tip of everyone tongue. 

"We weren't convinced totally that we were doing the right thing by putting him up there [at first-five], but we knew he's a quality player. 

"We were sort of going against what had been working for us the last three weeks but I thought he was really good and now we've got another option there.

Join Newshub for live updates of the Chiefs v Hurricanes from FMG Stadium at 7:05pm Friday