Despite a furious finish by the Blue Bulls, the Cheetahs were able to hang on for a 20-14 Currie Cup win in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The results is the Cheetahs fourth Currie Cup victory in succession and their second over the defending champions this year.
The hosts stole the early advantage, charging clear from their own goalline only 20 seconds after the whistle, with flanker Philip van der Walt going over at the other end to score the first try of the match.
Fly-half Louis Strydom added the conversion to bag his 25th successful attempt at goal in succession in the competition. And while he went on to miss a penalty in the match, breaking his superb streak with the boot, he helped his side to a 7-0 lead within the first minute.
The Bulls, however, fought back immediately, with wing Jaco van der Westhuizen sidestepping Cheetahs scrum-half Tewis de Bruyn in the fourth minute to score the visitors' first and only try of the game. And while Bulls fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter missed the conversion, he was successful with two penalty attempts in the first half.
Another penalty was controversially disallowed in the 36th minute, but the Bulls nonetheless took an 11-7 lead into the half-time break.
The Cheetahs, however, came out firing in the second half, forging ahead on attack and, while the Bulls did a tremendous job in holding them off, flanker Hendro Scholtz eventually barged over in the 57th minute. Strydom, who had bagged three points for a penalty shortly after the break, added another two for the conversion and the home side held a comfortable 20-11 lead midway through the second half.
Potgieter narrowed the gap with a penalty 12 minutes later and the Bulls pushed forward in the dying minutes, but the hosts held on for their seventh win of the season.
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Van der Walt, Scholtz
Cons: Strydom 2
Pens: Strydom 2
For the Blue Bulls:
Try: Van der Westhuyzen
Pens: J-L. Potgieter 3
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Philip Snyman, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Louis Strydom, 9 Tewis De Bruyn, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Philip Van der Walt, 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Waltie Vermeulen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Kobus Calldo, 2 Adriaan Strauss (capt), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 WP Nel, 18 Izak vd Westhuizen, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Tertius Carse, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Corne Uys.
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 CJ Stander, 6 Derick Kuün (captain), 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Gary Botha, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Jaco Engels, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Okkie Kruger, 21 Dustin Jinka, 22 Stephan Dippenaar.
Venue: Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Referee: Jason Jaftha