The Blue Bulls were given a good work-out by the lowly Leopards on Saturday, but still managed to leave Potchefstroom with a vital 39-26 Currie Cup win.
The visitors achieved what they set out to do by securing a bonus-point victory, but a lot of hard work lies ahead if the men from Pretoria are to stand a chance of defending their Currie Cup crown.
Superiority at the set pieces was one of the main reasons the Bulls managed to get the better of the only side that has not won a match in the competition. However, what will be of great concern for the men in blue is that they are yet to play to their full potential for an entire match.
It was at the line-outs in particular where the home side had a terrible day, but credit must go to lock Fudge Mabeta who's anticipation of the opposition's put-in was exemplary.
The Leopards came out guns blazing in the opening stages and placed the visitors under tremendous pressure in defence while securing quality first phase possession.
Centre Kempie Rautenbach came within inches of scoring the first try as the Blue Bulls were still finding their feet and had it not been for outstanding scramble defence by his opposite number, Jaco Pretorius, Rautenbach would have been rewarded.
The visitors tried to clear their lines but minutes later former Lions centre Walter Venter again managed to sneak past the Bulls backs and, after he drew two defenders, he sent wing Dumesani Matyeshane through for his fifth five-pointer of the competition.
Fly-half Clayton Du Rand converted and the home side had a 7-0 lead in the sixth minute. Du Rand added three more when the Bulls were penalised at a scrum and the Leopards, for the time at least, looked to be the more confident of the two teams.
The men from Pretoria were put under more pressure when they lost both flank Juandre Kruger and skipper Gary Botha to injury - Botha left the field with an ankle injury while Kruger hurt his wrist - but what would have pleased coach Frans Ludeke is that his men remained patient and did not stray from their game-plan.
It took the defending champions 18 minutes to register their first points after they squandered two earlier opportunities - one being a tighthead the Leopards secured on their own tryline.
Eventually flank Derick Kuun darted over to reduce the deficit to five points after a period of prolonged pressure.
From the returning kick-off, Potgieter sent the ball upfield and through outstanding work at the line-out by Mabeta, the visitors turned over possession and quickly took the ball up-field allowing wing Jaco van der Westhuyzen to go over for the equaliser.
At this stage the Blue Bulls managed to get their rolling mauls going and they were also getting over the advantage line with less effort. Hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle also showed why he is part of the Springbok set-up by making his presence felt at the breakdowns when he came on to replace Botha.
With the scores tied at 10-all, Du Rand - the stand-out performer in the Leopards line-up - slotted his second penalty to which the Bulls responded with a well-deserved try by centre Jaco Pretorius in the 35th minute, handing the visitors the lead for the first time in the match.
On the stroke of half-time, replacement wing Hayden Groupes dived over for the bonus-point try and where the Bulls looked out of sorts in the first 15 minutes, they thrived off the unforced errors the Leopards started making.
Leading 13-24 at the break, the Bulls picked up where they left off and within five minutes scrum-half Francois Hougaard showed why he is in line to take over from Fourie du Preez in the national team by stepping his way through the Leopards defence to score his team's fifth try.
Potgieter converted to extend the lead to 18 points with more than 30 minutes left to play.
Du Rand managed to restore some dignity with two more successful penalties but the home side could not make the few chances they had to get over the goal-line count - often fumbling the last pass to the wing.
As the match drew to a close the Leopards turned over possession while the Bulls were in control of matters. The ball was spread wide and thanks to another outstanding off-load by Venter, wing Cecil Dumond finished-off in the corner.
The fat lady had, however, not sung as the Blue Bulls were quick to respond as they finished the second half as they did the first by scoring after the siren had rang.
This time centre Stephan Watermeyer took advantage of a laps in the Leopards defence and, despite a valiant attempt on the line, he dived over for his team's final try.
Try: Matyeshana, Dumond
Con: Durand 2
Pens: Durand 3
For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Van der Westhuyzen, Pretorius, KuŁn, Groepes, Hougaard, Watermeyer
Cons: Potgieter 3
Leopards: 15 Danie Dames, 14 Jovan Bowles, 13 Cornelius Rautenbach, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Dumisani Matyeshana, 10 Clayton Durand, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 Riaan Swanepoel (c), 7 Reginald Kember, 6 Christo van Niekerk, 5 Brad Mockford, 4 Anthonie Gronum, 3 Bennie Uys, 2 Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 1 Johan Coetzee.
Replacements: 16 Gavin Williamson, 17 Eric Coetzee, 18 Victor Joubert, 19 Palm Koch, 20 Charlie King, 21 Cecil Dumond, 22 Deon Scholtz.
Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner,14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Juandrť Kruger, 6 Derick KuŁn, 5 Fudge Mabeta, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha (c), 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Jaco Engels, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Okkie Kruger, 21 Ruan Snyman, 22 Hayden Groepes.
Referee:Nathan Pierce (Australia)