Super Rugby Aotearoa: Chiefs credit stand-in coach Clayton McMillan for remarkable resurgence

Only a month ago, the Chiefs were riding an historic 11-game losing streak and stared down the barrel of another table-bottoming Super Rugby Aotearoa season.

But after their dramatic win over the defending champion Crusaders on Saturday, they've now run the slate on the competition and sit on the brink of a spot in the final in just three weeks.

"It's amazing what winning can do to an environment," midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown tells Newshub. "Things are a lot different now."

At the centre of their remarkable reversal of fortunes is stand-in head coach Clayton McMillan, whom Lienert-Brown says has led the change from within.

"Each individual is preparing better," he adds. "There are better habits within the group and Clayton McMillan is doing a great job at just driving the standards.

"We've always been a tight group. Through the tough times, we stuck tight and now we've hit some good times.

"There have been some good shifts in and amongst this environment, and that's the key to getting those results that we're after."

The Māori All Blacks and Bay of Plenty Steamers coach is acting as interim head coach for the 2021 season in the absence of Warren Gatland, who has returned to the UK to take charge of the British & Irish Lions.

Flanker Lachlan Boshier says McMillan has fitted seamlessly into the Chiefs setup and has made a big impression.

"Clayton [McMillan] has been great," says Boshier. "You wouldn't think it was only his first year in the environment.

"He's got the respect and the mana of all the boys. He just brings that edge that we're all enjoying.

"He's definitely been great for this environment."

On Friday, The Chiefs remain take on the struggling Hurricanes, who - after two straight defeats - are mired at the bottom of the standings.

With the third-placed Blues face a daunting encounter with the wounded Crusaders on Saturday, another maximum dose of competition points would go a long way to clinching a berth in the final on May 8.

"We believe we can [make the final]," says Lienert-Brown. "It's in our hands now. 

"We can create our own destiny. We've just to prepare really well each week and hopefully good comes from there."

While the Crusaders sit seven points clear atop the official standings, the men from the Waikato undeniably deserve to be at No.1 in the hypothetical Super Rugby Aotearoa power rankings.

But Lienert-Brown insists his side are still the tournament's underdogs - not that they're paying attention.

"For us, it's about not getting caught up in what the media or external people are saying - it's about trusting our process and trusting what we can do 

"We did that during the rough times. We learnt not to listen to the outside noise and we're doing this through the good times now as well."

Join us at 7pm Friday for live updates of the Chiefs v Hurricanes Super Rugby Aotearoa clash