The Bulls got back to winning ways in Pretoria thanks to a hard-fought 30-23 victory over trans-Jukskei rivals the Lions.
The Bulls returned to winning ways in Pretoria thanks to a hard-fought 30-23 victory over trans-Jukskei rivals the Lions on Saturday.
Tries from Dewald Potgieter, Gary Botha and Bjorn Basson were enough to see off a brave display from John Mitchell's men who threatened to snatch the game with two late tries to Deon van Rensburg and Franco Van der Merwe.
The Bulls, trying to shake off the cobwebs from back-to-back defeats at Loftus, were frustrated in the first quarter with nothing to show for their attacking intent while the Lions countered at every opportunity and took an early lead thanks to the boot of Elton Jantjies inside the opening ten minutes.
Jano Vermaak then wasted a clear-cut chance to put the Lions further ahead, fumbling after Jaco van der Westhuyzen had thrown a wayward pass under the pressure of another red and white counter-attack. It was a lucky escape for the Bulls who were clearly a little flustered by their own lack of fluency and the determination of their local rivals.
There was a collective sigh of relief around Loftus though when Potgieter crashed over to open the home side's account, the Springbok flanker's run from deep penetrating a stubborn defensive line.
Chiliboy Ralepele's powerful drive provided a penalty which Morne Steyn slotted over to ease the home crowd further, but Jantjies in return was able to hit a 50m penalty on the stroke of half-time with the game very much alive at 10-6 at the interval.
The battle of attrition continued in the second period as Steyn and Jantjies traded three-pointers while the high intensity of the clash forced a number of handling errors from both teams. The Bulls rung the changes – Gary Botha introduced in place of the impressive Ralepele, and Botha's fresh legs saw him harrow to put his side 23-9 ahead on the hour mark.
The Lions' inability to convert their opportunities was again prevalent when Warren Whiteley spilled the ball with ten minutes left on the clock, before the match exploded in the last five minutes.
First Lions winger Deon van Rensburg caught the Bulls defence napping as he wriggled through Danie Roussouw and Victor Matfield, with Andre Pretorius – replacing Jantjies for his first appearance of the season – converted to reduce the gap to seven.
With the pressure back on, the home side were able to produce a response through Bjorn Basson who dived over expertly in the corner – Morne Steyn maintaining his 100 per cent record for the evening with the extra two points.
The Lions, however, were not finished and when skipper Franco Van der Merwe rounded off under the poles there were still three nervous minutes left for the home team.
With territorial advantage however, the Bulls were able to grind down the clock and after a couple of concerted efforts to find a fourth try and bonus point, Victor Matfield decided that he had enough and booted the ball into touch with his side sealing a seven-point win.
Tries: Potgieter, G Botha, Basson
Cons: Steyn 3
Pens: Steyn 3
Tries: van Rensburg, Van der Merwe
Cons: Pretorius 2
Pens: Jantjies 3
Bulls: 15 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretoruis, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Gary Botha, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Francois Brummer, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Derick Kuun.
Lions: 15 Michael Killian, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe (captain), 4 David Bulbring, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Joshua Strauss, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Andre Pretorius, 22 Jaco Taute.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)