Bloemfontein - Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has lauded his side for grinding out a much-needed 31-22 Currie Cup victory over the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday evening.
The Bulls pulled off the victory in the dying minutes when winger Sampie Mastriet scored his second try of the evening after Cheetahs flyhalf Willie du Plessis' drop-goal attempt for the victory was charged down.
"It was a hard South African derby, especially at the rucks and the mauls," Ludeke said.
"Big moments almost turned the game for both sides. Penalties gave both teams field position and both have dangerous rolling mauls.
"We are humbled by the result and we knew it could go either way.
"Credit must go to Deon Stegmann (Bulls captain) for the way he kept the players motivated on the field."
The Bulls proved they could go the full 80 minutes but Ludeke underlined that there was still much room for improvement.
"We will obviously work on our maul defence where we were on the wrong side at times and also gave away the yellow card there," he said.
"We will also focus on our discipline and our decision making on the field."
The victory would keep the Bulls within reach of claiming a playoff berth as they are one-point adrift of the Cheetahs and Pumas in fourth and fifth place respectively.
Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan was disappointed with the defeat, but lauded his side for fighting until the bitter end.
The Cheetahs, lying in fourth place on the log, still have a chance of reaching the playoffs.
"Obviously we are disappointed, but the guys showed some character," Duncan said.
"We felt that before Willie du Plessis' drop attempt they could have taken it up once or twice more, but we were happy with the idea the players had.
"We gave the Bulls more space in the first half and allowed them back into the game."
Duncan was also happy to have Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen back after a lengthy foot injury.
"We are very happy to have Coenie back. He had a good run and will bring something special to the remainder of our games," Duncan said.