The Bulls opened an eight-point gap at the top of the South African conference with a 30-25 victory over the Cheetahs on Saturday.
The Bulls opened an eight-point gap at the top of the South African Super Rugby conference with a 30-25 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The result leaves the Bulls two points behind the Chiefs at the top of the overall standings as they continued their unbeaten run against the Cheetahs in Super Rugby.
The sides scored three tries apiece in a hard-fought, high-tempo clash.
The Bulls held a deserved 17-10 lead at the end of a highly-entertaining first half that featured tries from Bulls prop Werner Kruger, flank Deon Stegmann and Cheetahs wing Willie le Roux.
Bulls replacement scrum-half Jano Vermaak, Cheetahs fly-half Riaan Smit and replacement prop Nyakane added tries in a far more tactical second half that saw Morne Steyn's accurate boot play an influential role.
The Bulls impressed with their intensity from the kick-off and the Cheetahs defended bravely to limit the blue armada to just two tries before the interval.
The visitors drew first blood when a patient build up – highlighted by a few charges by Chiliboy Ralepelle – ended with Kruger hitting the line at pace and crashing over in the corner.
Morne Steyn added the extras but the home side replied soon afterwards with great solo try from le Roux, who scored under the sticks after collecting his own clever chip over the top.
The Bulls struck again at the end of the first quarter when Stegmann scored off the back of classic rolling maul and Steyn converted.
Riaan Smit pulled three points back for the Cheetahs when the Bulls scrum was put under pressure but Steyn restored the seven-point gap on the stroke of half time.
The Cheetahs were first to score after the interval as Smit found the target after another scrum penalty against the Bulls but Steyn duly replied with two more penalties to leave the scores at 23-13 on the hour mark.
The visitors looked to have landed the killer blow when Vermaak raced clear to score behind the posts but Robert Ebersohn showed great hands to put Smit away to score in the corner and keep the Cheetahs in the hunt at 30-18.
Nyakane needed some help from the TMO to score a late bonus-point saving try for the Cheetahs as he stretched out an arm despite the attentions of a gang of Bulls defenders.
Tries: le Roux, Smit, Nyakane
Cons: Smit 2
Pens: Smit 2
Tries: Kruger, Stegmann, Vermaak
Cons: Steyn 3
Pens: Steyn 3
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Ligtoring Landman, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie , 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Dewald Potgieter, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Zane Kirchner.
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Jason Jaftha
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper, Francois de Bruin
Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee