Bloemfontein - The Bulls consolidated their position at the top of the South African conference by beating the Cheetahs 30-25 in their Super Rugby encounter at Free State Stadium on Saturday evening.
With seven consecutive victories and only three matches left in the round-robin stage, the Bulls showed they are serious contenders for the playoffs.
Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn contributed 15 points through the boot, proving why he was regarded as the leading flyhalf South African this season.Click here for Sport 24's interactive commentary on the clashVIDEO: Bulls v Cheetahs, highlights
The visitors started at a blistering pace and put the Cheetahs defence under pressure, showing their intent as early as the fifth minute when Bulls centre JJ Engelbrecht
was denied a try by the TMO following a knock on by Bjorn Basson
The Bulls early on enjoyed 85 percent of the territory, which paid dividends when prop Werner Kruger
burst over in the eighth minute, with Steyn converting to put his side ahead by seven points.
The Cheetahs, however, bounced back when wing Willie le Roux scored a classy equaliser in the 14th minute, regathering a clever chip kick to score under the uprights, with Riaan Smit converting.
The Bulls attacked with renewed vigour, and flank Deon Stegmann scored after a rolling maul from a lineout for his side's second five-pointer of the evening, with Steyn converting.
The Cheetahs responded with a penalty by flyhalf Smit after they put the Bulls under immense pressure at the breakdown.
The home side were also very effective in the scrums and countered the Bulls' driving mauls, resulting in several turnovers and penalties for the hosts.
The Bulls had the last word before half-time when Steyn kicked another penalty, leaving the Cheetahs seven points adrift and the score 17-10 in favour of the visitors.
The Bulls did not start the second half well, as replacement fullback Zane Kirchner
knocked the ball on in front of his posts, with the Cheetahs gaining the penalty from the resulting scrum.
Smit kicked it over with ease to bring the hosts back within four points.
The Bulls fought back with a Steyn penalty after an infringement at the breakdown by the Cheetahs.
The second half saw the visitors use a kicking approach to pin the Cheetahs down in their own half, with Steyn kicking two penalties from the resulting pressure, separated by 11 minutes.
The Bulls then put the game out of the Cheetahs' reach when replacement scrumhalf Jano Vermaak
scored after a fine break by centre Jan Serfontein
, with Steyn converting.
The Cheetahs salvaged some pride through tries by flyhalf Riaan Smit via quick hands and prop Trevor Nyakane barging over at the end of the game.Scorers:Cheetahs:
Tries: Willie le Roux, Riaan Smit, Trevor Nyakane
Conversions: Riaan Smit (2)
Penalties: Smit (2)Bulls:
Tries: Werner Kruger
, Deon Stegmann, Jano Vermaak
Conversions: Morne Steyn (3)
Penalties: Steyn (3)Teams:Cheetahs:
15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss
(captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen
Substitutes: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Ligtoring Landman, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius
, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Rayno BenjaminBulls:
15. Jürgen Visser, 14. Lionel Mapoe, 13. JJ Engelbrecht
, 12. Jan Serfontein
, 11. Bjorn Basson
, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Francois Hougaard
, 8. Pierre Spies
(captain), 7. Arno Botha, 6. Deon Stegmann, 5. Juandré Kruger, 4. Flip van der Merwe, 3. Werner Kruger
, 2. Chiliboy Ralepelle
, 1. Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16. Callie Visagie, 17. Frik Kirsten, 18. Grant Hattingh, 19. Dewald Potgieter
, 20. Jano Vermaak
, 21. Louis Fouché, 22. Zane Kirchner