The Bulls returned to Super Rugby in emphatic style on Saturday as they beat a sloppy Cheetahs outfit 40-24.
With the Stormers having got four points before kick-off in Pretoria, the Bulls knew that anything but a victory would cost them dear. And they did not disappoint their hungry supporters as a first-half masterclass helped them seal the try bonus-point against a side they defeated 19-51 in March.
Tries arrived from number eight Pierre Spies, loosehead Dean Greyling, scrum-half Francois Hougaard and full-back Zane Kirchner, with tighthead Werner Kruger and left wing Bjorn Basson getting in on the act after the break.
The Cheetahs did reply by scoring four of their own through prop WP Nel (2), full-back Willie le Roux and flank Heinrich Brussow but it was too little too late as the damage had been done.
It was from a poorly executed chip kick by centre Andries Strauss that gifted the Bulls an ideal attacking opportunity to start their onslaught. They set up a few phases with the ball going out to a charging Spies, who powered his way over in the seventeenth minute. MornÃ© Steyn put his recent Test nightmare from the tee behind him with a successful conversion to boost his confidence. He finished with five from six.
Then came a similar story for the Bulls' second score as the power of Greyling proved too much five minutes later. Steyn once again added the two to make it a fourteen-point lead.
Needless to say the signs were looking rather ominous at Loftus.
Kirchner was next to add his name to the scoreboard after a well-placed tester landed inside the Cheetahs 22, causing Ashley Johnson all kinds of bother. The home full-back snaffled the loose ball to find an opening ahead of him to score his side's third five-pointer.
And it didn't take long for the rampant Bulls to continue building on their lead as the bonus-point try came from another Cheetahs mistake with four minutes left on the clock before the break. Johnson was caught in possession at the base of a scrum by Hougaard and it was then a simple pick up and gather from the Springbok nine. It was 26-0 going into the break.
The second-half started slowly for the opening fifteen minutes but when centre Strauss was shown yellow for pulling Jacques Potgieter's hair, the Bulls exploited this advantage.
First Kruger secured his five-pointer in the 54th minute before Basson scored arguably the best try of the game three minutes later. Basson, who was quiet before his moment, made a stunning 60 metre run down the touchline as he slipped his way to a try. Steyn converted.
The Cheetahs finally got onto the scoreboard when replacement prop Nel scored his first try of two on the hour, with the visitors claiming three of their tries within a period of eight minutes as the electric Le Roux went over for a magnificent long-range try. Replacement fly-half Sias Ebersohn cleverly chipped the ball over the Bulls' defensive line with Le Roux fielding to sprint over 70 metres to score in the left-hand corner, bringing it back to 40-12.
And then it was Brussow who had the final say as his dash down the touchline on the 77-minute mark being something to behold from the man left out of the Boks' recent squad.
Tries: Spies, Greyling, Kirchner, Hougaard, Kruger, Basson
Con: Steyn 5
Tries: Nel 2, Le Roux, Brussow
Con: S Ebersohn 2
Yellow card: Andries Strauss (Cheetahs in 51st minute - hair pull)
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Francois Venter.
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Philip Snyman, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Andries Ferreira, 4 Izak van der Westhuizen, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 WP Nel, 18 George Earle, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Nico Scheepers.
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)