TOO many errors and giving the ball away cheaply cost the EP Kings dearly when they slumped to a heavy 53-30 defeat against the fired-up Pumas in the Currie Cup First Division final in Nelspruit on Friday.
Disappointed Kings head coach David Maidza said his team had learnt many lessons which they would have to take on board for next season.
"It was a disappointing performance because I really thought the guys were up for the final," Maidza said.
"Our errors were too costly and that was the lesson we must take through to next season. You just cannot give the ball away to better sides because they will punish you and the Pumas did that.
"We squandered ball security against a top side and it has been one of our achilles heels during the whole season. That is where we let ourselves down. We did not hold onto the ball and we gave possession away to the Pumas too cheaply.
"[Most] of their points were off our errors. Normally we defend our errors well, but we did not do that this time. It was very uncharacteristic of us."
Kings skipper Darron Nell said his team believed they could still win the game at half time when they trailed the Pumas 19-9.
"At the break we still felt we could win the final and we had everything to play for," Nell said.
"We said if we can keep the ball in hand we have a chance. But all credit to the Pumas because they came out after the break and held the ball. They showed great composure and they were deserved winners.
"You can see the Pumas have got great confidence in one another and they really are a quality side. They have been together for a while and I want to wish them good luck for their Currie Cup Premier Division match against Griquas."
Nell, however, says it is not all doom and gloom in the EP camp despite the defeat.
"After the game we got together and we asked how many played in last year's final when we beat the Pumas. For 14 of the guys it was their first Currie Cup final and they were all under the age of 22.
"That bodes well for the future and we have a good young squad. I believe there are still big things coming for this team," Nell said.
Thanks to their win, the Pumas pocketed a R1-million cash prize, while the Kings walked away with R500000.
The Kings now face an anxious time as they wait for a decision on whether SA Rugby bosses will sanction a revote on whether they will be able to play top-tier rugby in an enlarged Currie Cup Premier Division next season.