Skipper Brendon McCullum is drawing positives from the development of New Zealand's new-look Twenty20 cricket squad after their 2-1 loss to South Africa.
The Proteas, with Henry Davids hitting his second successive half-century, won the decider in Port Elizabeth by a convincing 33 runs on Thursday (NZT).
McCullum says the result is a disappointment given the way the Black Caps bounced back from a big defeat by levelling the series with a last-ball victory in East London.
"We obviously built up some good momentum after the East London game," he said.
"We came into today with some high hopes and for a fair amount of the game I thought we competed well.
"I guess some of the bigger moments South Africa grabbed and we were found wanting at those times."
New Zealand's T20 tour party contained five newcomers.
Four of them - the Auckland pair of seamer Mitchell McClenaghan and batsmen Colin Munro, Northern Districts all-rounder Corey Anderson and Otago batsman Jimmy Neesham - made their debuts and went on to play in all three matches.
McCullum said the hard facts showed that New Zealand lost the series.
"But I think the progression that we've had as a team, and the introduction of some of the new guys into international cricket, playing in front of big crowds and against a good team, is a positive we can certainly glean," he said.
"We've seen some very good performances from some of the new guys as well, like Mitchell McClenaghan, so that's obviously encouraging."
Left-arm opening bowler McClenaghan was the pick of the New Zealand attack at St George's Park, removing Davids for 68 and finishing his four overs with 2-24.
South Africa went on to post 179-6, four of their wickets going to catches by Anderson, three of them in the deep.
New Zealand's response started poorly, Rob Nicol removed by Ryan McLaren with the total on six, before Martin Guptill and McCullum added 47 for the second wicket.
But after Aaron Phangiso accounted for both Guptill (24) and McCullum (25), New Zealand struggled.
The Black Caps have a three-day warm-up fixture against a South Africa XI in Boland beginning on Friday night, before the start of a two-Test series against the world's No.1-ranked side on January 2.