DURBAN - All Blacks rugby midfielder Aaron Mauger accused the Springboks of a series of cheap shots as concern mounts over captain Richie McCaw's on-field safety.
Mauger said McCaw was the main target of the Springboks' off-the-ball attention as a tense Tri-Nations test threatened to boil over at any moment.
There were no citings after the All Blacks' 26-21 win, although several incidents were viewed by the citing commissioner.
McCaw appeared at the post-match press conference with two black eyes but refused to point the finger. Mauger was more forthcoming.
"There were a lot of cheap shots in at the side there. Fair's fair if you're ready for it and shaping up but a lot of it's coming in from the side of rucks, it's pretty average really," Mauger said.
"It's something we'll have to address the next time we play them. "
Quite how that can be dealt with was the other concern facing the All Blacks, aware that a blatant punch would almost certainly end in a red card and suspension.
There was plenty of push and shove from both sides, most notably after Schalk Burger's try on halftime which involved both forward packs.
McCaw and Bobby Skinstad also had a prolonged scuffle in the second half.
Assistant coach Wayne Smith said last week the emphasis was on keeping cool heads in the face of likely provocation.
Mauger said that was a tough ask.
"It's pretty frustrating because a lot of it's unseen, but if the cameras look hard enough they'll be able to find a bit of dirt out there. That's up to the officials to make sure they pick that stuff up.
"It's usually like that, they (Springboks) try to target some of our main players and if that's their intention we've just got to make sure we look after them. "
Mauger meanwhile went from hero to villain in the space of three minutes but it all had a happy ending.
Out of nowhere he nailed a dropped goal to reduce the Springboks' lead to 11-9 just after halftime, then soon afterwards flipped a pass straight into Butch James' arms to gift him a 35m dash to score under the posts.
He admitted he'd like to "rewind and erase" the intercept pass. He said the dropped goal came from nowhere, the team having discussed how to shut down Springboks dropped goal ace Francois Steyn.
"We were on the front foot and there was no pressure, and no talk from outside so it took it upon myself to have a crack.
"It felt good. I hit it sweet. I didn't know how to act, I was a little bit surprised so I just kept it all inside, ran back and tried to look cool."
- NZPABy Mark Geenty