All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea has apologised for making a throat-slitting gesture at an opponent after being shown a yellow card during a Super Rugby Pacific match on Friday.
The Wellington Hurricanes captain was heading to the sin bin after being penalised for his part in a melee when he drew his thumb across his throat as he exchanged words with Melbourne Rebels scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens.
Savea said he felt the yellow card was harsh for a "bit of push and shove" but made no excuses for the gesture towards the South African halfback.
"I can understand the fans are furious around the gesture that I made," he told Stan Sport TV after the match.
"It's just a heat of the moment kinda thing. It's footy. I understand kids are watching us but we're in the heat of the moment. Usually that's out of character for me, so I put my hand up first and I apologise for that.
"There's no excuse for me, I've got to be better."
Savea scored two tries and made another in an otherwise outstanding performance for the Hurricanes, who edged a tight match 39-33 to record their second win of the young season despite also having prop Tevita Mafileo red-carded.
All Blacks centre Jordie Barrett, who scored a late try to seal the victory and contributed 14 points from the kicking tee, agreed that Savea's action had been out of character.
"He's a very proud man and I'm sure if he had his time again he wouldn't have done it," he said.
"Something must have got under his skin. He's always in control, he's a great leader for us."