The Bulls ended a dismal Super Rugby season with a fifth successive defeat as they lost out 42-29 to the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Despite returning to a fortress where they had won their last five games, the Bulls were well beaten by a side who showed greater intelligence in attack.
The Cheetahs crossed six times in total as they finish their campaign under new coach Franco Smith with plenty of positives to take into next year.
For the hosts they bid farewell to several players who are retiring or moving overseas, as a new era is set to begin in Pretoria in the upcoming season.
The Bulls were keen to feast on the worst defence in Super Rugby this season and they did not take long to cross the line, five minutes in fact. It came from a spell of tight play before the ball was moved right to where full-back Jesse Kriel juggled before gathering for the first score.
Credit to the Cheetahs though who struck back four minutes later when their own full-back, Willie le Roux, picked out number eight Niell Jordaan on the left wing for the try. Fly-half Niel Marais landed the difficult conversion from the touchline to level up the scores at 7-7 in Pretoria.
The visitors would take a 14-7 lead before the 20 minute mark too when a solid line-out drive led to blindside flank Henco Venter crashing over.
The Bulls did reduce that margin on the half-hour after the offences began to rack up against the Cheetahs, with referee Craig Joubert deciding to give captain Francois Uys an official warning. Instead of applying further pressure on the line, Potgieter was asked to knock over the three.
Such a conservative approach wasn't adopted by Franco Smith's men as soon after, they crossed for their third try of the contest when scrum-half Sarel Pretorius delayed a flat pass out to winger Clayton Blommetjies from close-range. Questions will be asked about Burger Odendaal's defence.
21-10 would become 28-10 before the break too as Pretorius turned from provider to scorer with a dummy and snipe over the try-line for the bonus-point score. It capped a dismal half for the Bulls as the fans who came out to support them were left less than happy with the performance.
The Cheetahs scored the crucial first try of the second-half on 50 minutes when second-row Steven Sykes slipped through some rather weak tackles from fifteen metres out to extend the lead to 25 points. Again Pretorius was involved, laying on the inviting ball to his forward who cruised in.
Fortunately for the Bulls faithful, their side would respond before the hour mark when Kriel's break led to wing Francois Hougaard finishing off. With replacement Tian Schoeman's touchline conversion making it 35-17, suddenly the crowd and Bulls players sensed that maybe a comeback was on.
They moved to within two scores of their visitors with ten minutes to play when number eight Pierre Spies crashed over. At 35-24, could the Cheetahs hold on?
Smith's charges did more than that as they crossed for a sixth try through centre Ryno Benjamin on the left wing to rub salt into the Bulls wounds, which meant Hougaard's second try at the death was nothing more than a consolation.
Tries: Kriel, Hougaard 2, Spies
Con: Potgieter, Schoeman 2
Tries: Jordaan, H Venter, Blommetjies, Pretorius, Sykes, Benjamin
Con: Marais 6
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Arno Botha, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 Bjorn Basson, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Jurgen Visser, 23 Werner Kruger.
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 BG Uys.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Ewald vd Westhuizen, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Oupa Mohoje, 22 Renier Botha, 23 Coenie van Wyk.
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referees: Jason Jaftha, Ben Crouse
TMO: Willie Vos