Ironically, the penalty count saw the All Blacks concede only five penalties to 10 by South Africa, the difference being that two infringements cost the All Blacks players.
The game will forever be controversial for a decision that saw Springboks captain Siya Kolisi avoid Cane's fate for a head contact tackle on All Blacks No8 Ardie Savea. He was given a yellow card on review, but the TMO Tom Foley ruled it should not be upgraded to red.
It meant the All Blacks played 62 minutes with 14 men, while South Africa had 18 minutes with 14 players, wing Cheslin Kolbe being sin-binned for eight minutes at the end of the game for a deliberate knock-on.
The All Blacks were gutsy in attempting to defy the odds, but in the end, it was a bridge too far with their solitary satisfaction was being the first side to cross the Springboks line in four World Cup finals, fullback Beauden Barrett scoring in the 58th minute.
That was after a try to halfback Aaron Smith five minutes earlier was ruled out for a knock-on in the play that started the movement.
A long shot from 50 metres to claim the game was missed by second five-eighths Jordie Barrett near the end – but in the circumstances, it was a long shot that just went to the left of the posts.
The intrusion of the TMO throughout the game made it a hard watch.
Springbok first five-eighths Handre Pollard to kept the scoreboard ticking over with penalty goals, and it was enough to give them their third one-point win in the playoffs.
It was the third World Cup win of their four that saw South Africa fail to score a try. They matched the All Blacks as the only teams to win consecutive World Cups.
Two minutes into the game, flanker Shannon Frizell was sin-binned for falling on the leg of hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi when tackling him. Mbonambi left the field soon after.
Then, 32 minutes into the game, Cane was ruled to have had head contact with centre Jesse Kriel in making a tackle. Cane was sin-binned on review, which was upgraded to a red card.
The first half was critical. The All Blacks attempted to find ways through the Springbok defence, but time after time, the green line didn't waver, with the man of the match flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit making 28 tackles throughout the game. He had great support from fellow big men, props Steven Kitshoff (13), Frans Malherbe (15), lock Franco Mostert (16) and replacement hooker Deon Fourie (21), who was outstanding in taking on his non-specialist role of hooker.
Du Toit's leadership was an inspiration to his side, and he was a constant menace in every threat the All Blacks could make.
The All Blacks didn't lack in possession, but the statistics showed how hard South Africa's defence was hard to crack. New Zealand won 115 rucks to 56 while beating 36 defenders to 13.
The ability to get their continuity game flowing was frustrated by the determined Springbok cover. They were forced to make 209 tackles to 91 by the All Blacks and were not out of the game at halftime when down 6-12.
Jordie Barrett had another strong game, again saving a try just after halftime when able to get under second five-eighths Damian de Allende as he went over the line. It was unfortunate that a piece of class from Mo'unga that set up the disallowed try for Smith was overruled.
Wing Mark Tele'a again wriggled his way in and out of tackles to get the All Blacks rolling forward. At the same time, Smith demonstrated the accumulated experience and skill he brought to the halfback position.
Locks Brodie Retallick and Scott Barrett, props Ethan de Groot and Tyrell Lomax and hooker Codie Taylor were outstanding in the go-forward plays as they sought to tie in the Springboks defence.
Key personnel are always lost at the end of a World Cup cycle. Lock Sam Whitelock, hooker Dane Coles, halfback Aaron Smith, first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga, lock Brodie Retallick, loose forward Shannon Frizell, prop Nepo Laulala, and wing Leicester Fainga'anuku have all potentially played their last Tests, withstanding a return to New Zealand rugby.
But the campaign showed there is also a foundation for the future where the experience in Paris should be a stimulant for All Black growth through the next cycle.
New Zealand 11 (Beauden Barrett try; Richie Mo'unga 2 pen) South Africa 12 (Handre Pollard 4 pen). HT: 6-12