Cape Town - The Cheetahs blitzed their way to a 24-0 lead inside 20 minutes, but they ran out of puff and eventually fell 41-27 to the Chiefs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The hosts were initially full of enterprise and it looked like a huge upset was on the cards, but in the end the class of the Chiefs proved too much to handle as they scored six tries to the Cheetahs' three.
The Cheetahs, with a lot to prove after being earmarked as one of two South African sides set to potentially be axed from next year's competition, stunned the visitors in the opening quarter.
Playing with abundant attacking intent and at a noticeably high tempo, the Cheetahs simply blew away their fancied New Zealand opposition to score three tries in the opening 20 minutes to add to a Niel Marais penalty.
Raymond Rhule, Torsten van Jaarsveld and skipper Francois Venter scored those tries that all came as the result of some neat offloading and quick recycling.
The Chiefs were stunned, but patient.
They got on the board in the 28th minute when right wing Toni Pulu finished off down his touchline - Aaron Cruden slotting the conversion to make it 24-7.
The question for the Cheetahs was always going to be whether or not their defence could hold the full 80 minutes.
They were full of energy and put in some big hits, but the capabilities of a wounded Chiefs side after their 34-26 loss to the Stormers last weekend meant that the Cheetahs couldn't relax for a second.
The hosts came close to scoring their fourth before the end of the first period, but it was the Chiefs instead who pulled one back just before the hooter as Pulu crashed over for his second to make it 24-14 at half time.
The Cheetahs started brightly in the second half and came close to scoring just five minutes in after a well executed rolling maul.
They were stopped just short, and illegally as Chiefs loosehead Kane Hames was shown yellow for collapsing the maul and sent to the bin to give the Cheetahs the advantage of an extra man for 10 minutes.
Marais then knocked over his second penalty of the day to give the Cheetahs a 27-17 lead heading into the final half hour as an upset began to look possible.
A Cruden penalty then made it 27-17, and the Chiefs - still down to 14 men - then turned it on to score a seriously skillful try through scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow, making it 27-22 with 25 minutes to play.
At that stage, with the Chiefs beginning to find some rhythm, it began to look a tall order for coach Franco Smith's men.
Wing James Lowe then capitalised on some quick Chiefs hands to score the visitors' fourth, and when Cruden knocked the conversion over just past the hour mark, the Chiefs had the lead for the first time in the match at 29-27.
The Cheetahs hung on, and they were given a golden chance with just 9 minutes remaining when substitute flyhalf Fred Zelinga hooked a very makeable penalty to the left of the uprights.
That would be the Cheetahs' last opportunity as Chiefs substitute Shaun Stevenson put the game to bed when he latched onto a chip over the top to score his side's fifth.
Cruden's conversion made it 36-27 and the Cheetahs, after such a brave fight, were dead.
Substitute hooker Hika Elliot's late score made it No 6, and ensured the Chiefs went home with the bonus point.
Cheetahs 27 (24)
Tries: Raymond Rhule, Torsten van Jaarseveld, Francois Venter
Conversions: Niel Marais (3)
Penalties: Marais (2)
Chiefs 41 (14)
Tries: Toni Pulu (2), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, James Louw, Shaun Stevenson, Hika Elliot
Conversions: Aaron Cruden (4)
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Elandre Huggett, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Junior Pokomela/Luther Obi, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Sam McNicol, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Taleni Seu, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Shaun Stevenson