The Blue Bulls will not contest this year's Currie Cup semi-finals after losing 22-7 to the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The result means the Cheetahs finish fourth on table, below the Lions on points difference.
The Free Staters will now have wait for the result of the final game of the regular season between the Sharks and Western Province to know whether they will travel to Durban or Cape Town in the semi-finals.
The Cheetahs led 10-7 at half-time.
The hosts started at a frantic pace and put the Blue Bulls under pressure early on. The pressure was converted into penalties for the hosts, but fly-half Elgar Watts struggled to kick at goal and six points were squandered.
It was Watts however who helped his side to the first points of the match when he broke through the Bulls' defence in the ninth minute to put centre Robert Ebersohn under the posts. Watts converted.
Watts kicked his third penalty attempt shortly after, as the Cheetahs succeeded in keeping the Bulls on the back foot. That gave the hosts a comfortable lead early on of ten points and left the visitors to regroup under the uprights. The visitors did succeed in launching a couple of good attacks, but they seldom progressed further than the Cheetahs 22 metre line.
The hosts were ferocious on attack in the first half and it reflected on the score board. The Cheetahs also succeeded in their attempts to counter the Bulls' driving mauls and on many occasions smothered any chance at points from that facet of play for the visitors.
The Bulls had the final say in the first half however, putting their first points on the board on the stroke of half time. Prop Marcel van der Merwe scored for the visitors after the Bulls tried on numerous times to breach the Cheetahs defensive line. Fly-half Handré Pollard converted to give the Bulls more to smile about with the half time score 10-7 in the hosts favour.
The Bulls looked better when the second half commenced, but silly penalties again supplied the Cheetahs with enough attacking ball. The Bulls started struggling again, as shown when a silly little box kick by Bulls centre Jan Serfontein was intercepted and a try scored by Watts for the hosts. Watts converted to stretch his side's lead to ten points once again.
The Bulls tried to hit back, but they lacked any finesse on the attack. The Cheetahs were outstanding on defence, preventing the visitors from scoring.
The Bulls couldn't capitalise on the numerical after Cheetahs replacement prop Schalk van der Merwe was red carded for a spear tackle.
Instead, Springbok hooker and Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss scored near the end to put the result beyond any doubt.
Tries: Ebersohn, Watts, Struass
Cons: Watts 2
Red card: S. van der Merwe
For Blue Bulls:
Try: M. Van der Merwe
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Teboho Mohoje, 19 Freddie Ngoza, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Johan Goosen, 22 Willie du Plessis.
Blue Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross (c), 5 David Bullbring, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Lohan Jacobs, 21 Francois Venter, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.
Referee: Marius Jonker