The Bulls got their Super 14 defence off to a winning start following a pulsating 51-34 victory over the Cheetahs in an entertaining spectacle that saw nine tries being scored in Bloemfontein on Friday.
A fourteen-point scoring spree in two minutes from the Bulls after half-time effectively sealed the deal for the visitors who were made to work hard for their win against a spirited Cheetahs outfit.
It may seem like a drubbing, but the Cheetahs were good until the very end, losing by a rather twisted scoreline.
It was a fast-moving match full of excitement without much between the sides. A few missed tackles and unsure handling at times prevented it from being a really great match, but the signs were there that the Cheetahs will not be easy to beat this year.
As for the Bulls, they showed that they will again be up there with the best - and there is little doubt that their scrum has improved. They more than held their own against a formidable Cheetahs front row with Gurthro Steenkamp showing he wants to make up for his disappointing year-end Springbok tour.
With three minutes to go, the visitors were awarded a penalty try after the Cheetahs' scrum disintegrated on their own line to underline a good night's scrummaging.
But it was the hosts that got off to a dream start with a try 30 seconds into the match thanks to some excellent work from their tremendously quick wingers Jongi Nokwe and Lionel Mapoe, with the latter finishing off turnover ball generated by his partner in crime.
A high kick-off by the home side was hunted down by Nokwe who was quick to bring down Bulls recipient Fourie du Preez and win the ball back for his team. Swift recycle ball then saw play spread to the left like wildfire until Mapoe took advantage of the rattled defence for his first Super Rugby touchdown on debut.
With the tricky conversion missed by Naas Olivier, opposite number Morne Steyn was more successful with his penalty attempt soon afterwards before the Cheetahs' pivot found the middle of the posts with a three-pointer.
The Cheetahs, with their tails still up, were brought back down to earth after Bulls centre Jaco Pretorius bull-dozed his way through two would-be tacklers for the defending champions' first try of the tournament.
Three further penalty exchanges between Olivier and Steyn kept the scoreboard ticking over in a stimulating see-saw battle that saw the lead change hands five times in 30 minutes.
The Bulls started to accelerate from the Cheetahs, however, following a solo effort from Steyn eight meters out from the hosts' line that ended with the Bok fly-half stretched out under the posts for a seven-pointer.
Steyn kept his 100 per cent kicking record for the half intact with a penalty goal on the stroke of half-time to take the Bulls to commanding 24-13 lead.
If anyone thought the game was over as a contest at the break, they were in for a big surprise! The opening 15 minutes in the second half alone saw five converted tries and a penalty being scored - that's 38 points, more in the entire first half alone.
Naka Drotske's side struck first from the restart with Olivier curling over a fine penalty from the right-hand touchline. But the joy was short lived as quick tries from Bulls wing Gerhard van den Heever and then full-back Zane Kirchner stretched the lead to a massive 20 points after 48 minutes thanks to the additional points added by Steyn.
The Cheetahs' attempts to try and stay in touch were kept alive by captain Juan Smith, who capitalised on quick thinking from scrum-half Tewis de Bruyn to touch down, and the home crowd were given more cause to believe when Nokwe finished a flowing move from inside the Cheetahs' 22 by racing down the right touchline to score.
Both tries were converted by Olivier, but just as the hosts seemed to have gathered some momentum, there was a floodlight failure on the 55-minute mark with just six points in it.
After play was halted for a brief period, Bulls centre Wynand Olivier then broke through for his side's fifth try and despite the best efforts of the hosts, they could only manage one final penalty from Naas Olivier.
To compound matters, referee Jonathan Kaplan awarded a late penalty try against the Cheetahs scrum as the Bulls sealed victory.
Man of the match: For the Cheetahs, Naas Olivier's seven successful shots at goal kept the hosts within range with Heinrich Brüssow a menace all night for the forwards and wings Lionel Mapoe and Jongi Nowke the stand-out performers for the backs. Morne Steyn was on song with the boot for the Bulls, missing just one kick at goal while flanker Deon Stegmann made his presence felt with a try-saving tackle on Nokwe and kept Brüssow at bay when it counted. But our vote goes to inside centre Wynand Olivier who regularly set up good second-phase ball in midfield, was solid on defence and set up three of the Bulls' six tries as well as contributing one of his own.
Tries: Mapoe, Smith, Nokwe
Cons: Olivier 2
Pens: Olivier 5
Tries: Pretorius, Steyn, Van den Heever, Kirchner, Olivier, Penalty try
Cons: Steyn 6
Pens: Steyn 3
Cheetahs: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Corné Uys, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Nico Breedt, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Frans Viljoen, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Danwel Demas.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 John Mametsa, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Pedrie Wannenburg, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Bees Roux, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Derick Kuün, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Stephan Dippenaar.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant referee: Marius Jonker, Reuben Rossouw
TMO: Shaun Veldsman