All Black coach Ian Foster acknowledged his side's 19-17 win over the Springboks on Saturday was "ugly", but he stopped short of criticising South Africa's tactics.
"If ever you're going to take an ugly win, we'll take that," he said.
"Clearly it was going to be a big arm wrestle. We tried to break it open but couldn't. It wasn't pretty but I loved the attitude at the end."
The powerful Springboks pack won a remarkable 13 turnovers, only to see the ball kicked away most of the time, and Foster said the All Blacks needed to get better at handling that style of play.
"It's one thing to dismiss it as boring, which a lot of people do, but it's ruthless and clinical and they are very good at it," he said.
"We ran out of time in many situations and that put our skill-set under pressure, so there's a real learning curve for us."
The showdown had been a long time in the making - 100 years since two of the world's great rivals first faced off and two years since they clashed at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The world-champion Springboks went into the game on the back of stinging criticism from coach Jacques Nienaber who demanded improvement after back-to-back losses to Australia.
He declared himself satisfied with the response as the boot of Handre Pollard had them in sight of victory, before Barrett stepped up to seal the outcome.
"The game plan worked. I thought we had opportunities, they had opportunities, it came down to the wire," said Nienaber.
"A call here, a bounce of the ball there and sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it goes against you."
Of the 100 Tests between New Zealand and South Africa, the All Blacks have now won 60, South Africa 36 and four have been drawn.