A 27-point haul from Jacques-Louis Potgieter guided the Blue Bulls into the play-off positions on Saturday as they eased past the Lions 32-18.
This is a much-improved Lions outfit than what we saw in the Super 14 as it seems that some of Carlos Spencer's wisdom has rubbed off on his back-line. The form of Deon van Rensburg and Michael Killian was particularly impressive, but in the end it was all in vain for the hosts, who gave away too many offences at the breakdown.
They were up against a strong-looking Blue Bulls line-up in Johannesburg though, and with such Springboks as Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter and Flip van der Merwe in attendance, Head Coach Frans Ludeke was obviously hunting a decent response following last week's painful extra-time loss to the Cheetahs.
Victory was secured but it was hardly a breeze for the reigning champions as the hosts produced a running game that was led very well by fly-half Elton Jantjies. The number ten mixed up his plays all evening on Saturday and always kept the visiting defence honest, even though opposite number Potgieter starred with 27 points that included a try.
It had looked like being a long 80 minutes for the hosts early on as Ludeke's charges put on a strong opening passage that saw them set up camp downfield. However, their only reward was three points from the boot of Potgieter before impressive winger Van Rensburg finished off a long-range move that involved fellow winger Killian and full-back Jaco Taute.
The respective kickers then exchanged penalties until 25 minutes before Gerhard van den Heever joined the party after a good draw-and-give from John Mametsa. The conversion from soon-to-be Sharks man Potgieter brought the scores to 13-8 in favour of the Blue Bulls.
Going into the break it had looked like the Lions would trot in ahead when number eight Warren Whiteley crossed under the uprights for a converted try, but a late strike from the away number ten saw them in fact sit down with their noses in front.
Upon the turnaround it was all about Potgieter though, as he added another three penalties before the pressure finally told on the Lions' defence and he crossed for a converted score.
For the Lions:
Tries: Van Rensburg, Whiteley
Pen: Jantjies 2
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries: Van den Heever, Potgieter
Con: Potgieter 2
Pen: Potgieter 6
Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Trevor Hall, 6 Derek Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe (c), 4 George Earle, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 David Bulbring, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Carlos Spencer, 22 Marius Delport.
Blue Bulls: 15 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Stephan Dippenaar, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 John Mametsa, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Derick KuÃ¼n, 5 JuandrÃ© Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha (c), 1 Jaco Engels.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Bees Roux, 18 Fudge Mabeta, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Hayden Groepes.
Referee: Marius Jonker