The Bulls picked up their fourth victory of the Super Rugby season as they beat the Crusaders 31-19 in an entertaining game at Loftus Versfeld.
Fans and viewers were treated to a wonderful game to round off the weekend as the Bulls got the better of their Kiwi opponents, thus moving above them up to seventh in the overall standings and second in the South African conference, one point behind the Sharks.
It was a thrilling first-half in Pretoria as the Bulls showed their intent to keep the ball in hand, which paid off after three minutes when wing Francois Hougaard finished off in the corner. Handré Pollard could not add the extras but it was a hugely positive, fast-paced opening.
The Bulls doubled their advantage five minutes later courtesy of debutant inside centre Burger Odendaal, who was a late replacement for Jan Serfontein, finishing off superbly well on the right wing. This time Pollard did land the conversion as suddenly the Bulls were 12-0 ahead.
Kieran Read's men needed some ball and when they got it they looked dangerous themselves, with Israel Dagg in particular slicing through on more than one occasion. The net result was the Bulls offending at a ruck, which allowed Dan Carter to slot over three points from the tee.
On nineteen minutes, Carter further reduced the gap after a strong scrum from his forwards. The score was now 12-6 to the men from Pretoria.
But on came more pressure from the Crusaders and when destructive wing Nemani Nadolo barged his way over on the left, suddenly the visitors were 12-13 ahead thanks to Carter's touchline kick. The seven-time champions were loving the open game on the highveld and so were the fans.
Pollard and Carter traded penalties before the interval, with the two from the South African meaning it was the Bulls going in 18-16 ahead.
That was extended to 21-16 on 52 minutes after Pollard coolly slotted a long-range attempt and he was at it again four minutes later, with the Springbok demonstrating how deadly he can be off the kicking tee. The Crusaders were now crucially two scores behind with an eight point deficit.
Colin Slade thought he had cut that to what would have been just a point when he was sent over by Nadolo, but assistant referee Marius van der Westhuizen asked referee Angus Gardner to check the pass. Television match official Deon van Blommestein subsequently adjudged the ball went forward.
The Bulls made them pay as replacement Grant Hattingh raced over from 50 metres after collecting a loose ball, with the result now sealed for the South African franchise, who move above the Stormers in their local conference.
Tries: Hougaard, Odendaal, Hattingh
Con: Pollard 2
Pen: Pollard 4
Pen: Carter 4
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Colin Slade, 23 David Havili.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Deon van Blommestein