The Bulls followed up their first ever Canberra win with a first ever triumph in Sydney when they beat the Waratahs 32-19 in their Super 14 Round Six at the Aussie Stadium on Saturday.
It is only the second time ever that a South African side had won back-to-back matches in Australia - with the Lions having done it recently. The win saw the Bulls move up to second place in the standings, at least for now, and at worst they'll finish the weekend in third place.
The Waratahs got the ball and ran and ran, and the Bulls won the match by a convincing margin. It was strange but, despite the Waratahs' possession and the stream of penalties against the Bulls, it always seemed that they would win - a victory for simplicity.
The penalty count against them was huge - 18-4. That is the highest number conceded by any team in the Super 14 this year. They have now conceded 70 penalties in six matches against the 31 conceded by the Waratahs. It's silly, and the referee must have exerted praeternatual patience in not issuing a yellow card.
Penalties kept the Waratahs in the game, and it took them 76 minutes to score their solitary try and then it was penalty-assisted. They had all that possession but their handling was erratic and they just were not fast enough. Morgan Turinui was on the wing and he was metres slower than Bryan Habana, which the Bulls exploited. Lote Tuqiri was on the other wing with well disguised speed as time and again he ran parallel to the goal-lines before straightening up into the tackle.
The Bulls on the other hand had quicker and more direct men, and so they won at Aussie Stadium for the first time and did it with a bonus point from four tries. In addition they had half backs who dictated play. Derick Hougaard and Fourie du Preez carried out the master plan and left the Waratahs to battle against the wall of their defence. The Bulls so swarmed in defence that even if one man missed a tackle there were others there and throughout they put pressure on the Waratahs, who became rattled without anybody to give them direction enough.
Then, too, the Bulls made life difficult for the Waratahs at first phase. They won no fewer than eight of their line-outs and made scrummaging hard when it mattered.
The Bulls' four tries were scored by two players - Bryan Habana and Fourie du Preez, and Habana was a fingertip from a third and may well have been cheated out of another opportunity. Suddenly he became energised after a lethargic start to the season. His speed and skill were just too much.
After Wikus van Heerden had been penalised for holding on and Peter Hewat had goaled, Habana was close as the Bulls burst out of defence and gave to Habana who scooted round Al Baxter and kicked ahead. He was well ahead in the chase for the ball and bent to it. Perhaps a fingertip touched the ball after which Turinui grabbed him without the ball. But, the TMO not available in such circumstances, it became a scrum to the Waratahs.
Daniel Halangahu was penalised for being off-side - the only penalty the Waratahs conceded in the half - and Hougaard levelled the scores. The Waratahs had had all the match up till then and the Bulls had come within a fingertip of scoring a try and had then levelled the scores with a penalty.
They went ahead from a scrum on their left.
Pedrie Wannenburg picked up at the back and fed Wayne Julies coming round. The centre gave to Du Preez on his left and the scrumhalf grubbered ahead. Habana raced ahead of the Waratahs, with great self-control footed the ball into the in-goal and beat Turinui to the try. 8-3 to the Bulls.
There was pressure on the Bulls when Dean Mumm charged down a Du Preez clearance and raced after the ball but Hougaard just beat him to the touch down.
Hewat missed an easy kick at goal but then goaled one when JP Nel was off-side. 8-6 after 30 minutes.
There was a special moment in the half when the Waratahs attacked down the left, but Habana, covering from his wing, launched himself straight into Tuqiri who lost the ball forward and suddenly the Bulls were breaking out on their left. It was symptomatic of the visitors' eagerness to seize the opportunity.
Kurtley Beale had a great break and chipped. Wannenburg was lucky not to be penalised and carded for sticking out a leg to impede the flyhalf's pursuit of the ball.
The Waratahs then won a Bulls' line-out, more through Bulls' clumsiness than their own technique. Tuqiri tried a grubber which lost them the ball but in the tackle/ruck that followed, Baxter counter-rucked and Van Heerden was penalised. Hewat put his side 9-8 ahead.
The lead did not last long. Du Preez charged down a clearance kick by Hewat and Halangahu knocked on. This gave the Bulls a scrum six metres from the Waratahs' line. They won the ball and Wannenburg picked up in what looked like a ponderous back-row move, but suddenly Du Preez broke right and in Hewat's tackle stretched out to score the try, which Hougaard converted.
Immediately it was half-time with the Bills leading 15-9, two tries to nil.
Danie Rossouw was penalised at a tackle/ruck early in the second half and Hewat made it 15-12. That was the closest the Waratahs came to winning.
The Bulls kicked off, the Waratahs knocked on and in a moment of brilliant skill Hougaard flicked the ball back to Du Preez - a reversal of roles. Nel steamed down the right and then threaded a grubber through and into the Waratahs' in-goal. Habana had simply sped past Turinui, Beale and Halangahu to score the try. Hougaard converted from far out. 22-12.
Nel established himself as more than a defensive centre when he cut back and broke on a run for the corner of more than 40 metres. He was on the diagonal and Turinui saved for the Waratahs but tackling him out just short of the corner post. But the Bulls were on the attack and Gary Botha was close. The ball went back into the Waratahs' in-goal where Josh Valentine and Van Heerden went for the ball. Valentine got there first and the referee was about to award a five-metre scrum to the Bulls when Valentine objected to being held and stuck an impatient elbow into Van Heerden's neck. The referee penalised him and Hougaard made the score 25-12, opting for the penalty rather than an attacking scrum.
Valentine could well have been in more trouble as Hougaard picked up a turn-over and raced down the left. He grubbered ahead and Valentine tackled him late. The replacement scrumhalf was penalised but not identified, and Hougaard missed the penalty attempt.
When next the Bulls attacked, Hougaard was close to the line but the Bulls knocked on. But the Bulls got their bonus-point try soon afterwards. The Waratahs were on defence and kicked downfield. They were not kicking out - the Bulls had only six line-out throws in the match - and Du Preez was back for the ball. He ran back, kicked high and chased. Valentine jumped for the ball and Du Preez jumped for the ball. Du Preez got the ball with a juggle, sold Tuqiri a dummy and scored near the posts. Hougaard converted. 32-12 with 12 minutes to play.
The Waratahs were in their own territory for much of those 12 minutes till a spray of half a dozen penalties took them down the field and a try for Beale at the posts. Hewat converted but there were fewer than four minutes to play and the Bulls had no difficulty in coping with that.
There was booing in Aussie Stadium when the final whistle went.
Man of the Match: Peter Hewat and Rocky Elsom, who suffered a nasty jab to the head from JP Nel which may attract further attention, were the pick of the Waratahs but the really effective players were Bulls - Victor Matfield in the line-outs, busy Gary Botha, efficient Wayne Julies, charged Bryan Habana, dictatorial Derick Hougaard, who also produced the match's magic moment with that flick back that led to a try, Wikus van Heerden and the incredible Fourie du Preez, our Man of the Match.
For the Waratahs:
Pens: Hewat 4
For the Bulls:
Tries: Habana 2, Du Preez 2
Cons: Hougaard 3
Pens: Hougaard 2
Waratahs: 15 Peter Hewat, 14 Morgan Turinui, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Daniel Halangahu, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 David Lyons, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Will Caldwell, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Alastair Baxter, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 Al Manning, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Ben Hand, 19 Beau Robinson, 20 Josh Valentine, 21 Sam Norton-Knight, 22 Sam Harris
Bulls: 15 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wayne Julies, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Danie Thiart, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Jaco Engels, 17 Ruan Vermeulen, 18 Anton Leonard, 19 Derick KuŁn, 20 Heinie Adams, 21 Mornť Steyn, 22 Marius Delport
Referee: Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Julian Pritchard (Australia)
Television match official: Geoff Acton (Australia)
Assessor: Ian Scotney (Australia), Dennis Immelman (South Africa)