But in truth New Zealand were on the back foot for much of the match, outside centre Jesse Kriel a particular standout for South Africa alongside full-back Willie Le Roux.
They both scored but the All Blacks - hosts of the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour - kept them in sight, Dane Coles and Ben Smith crossing before McCaw finally turned the game in their favour to make it two Rugby Championship wins from two.
Charles Piutau also scooped up the man-of-the-match award for a number of searing breaks but McCaw insists they can find another level ahead of their game with Australia.
"If we look at the first half we were under the pump from the Springboks and we would have liked to have started better than that, but they're a great team who put us under pressure," he said.
"You're never out of it, even though the scoreboard might say what it is you've just to keep persevering and the opportunities will come.
"A big part of it was going down to 14 men and then managing to hold our lines and then we broke back.
"You play for 80 minutes but it comes down to moments like that, I'm pleased the boys held their nerve."
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