The Rebels kicked off their 2014 Super Rugby season with a first ever bonus point victory over the Cheetahs at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
The Rebels and the Cheetahs had played each other three times since 2011 and the Cheetahs had won all three matches.
The Rebels outscored the Cheetahs by five tries to two on their way to a 35-14 victory which is their biggest ever win in Super Rugby.
The Rebels dominated the South Africans in the first half to lead 17-0 at half-time and withstood the Cheetahs' comeback to 24-14 before pulling away in the final 10 minutes.
Quick thinking by Higginbotham created his team's second try with a high kick to the right corner for fullback Jason Woodward to score, and the big number eight finished it off with a try in stoppage time after a rousing counter-attack.
"It's a great way to start the season, it's nice to get a bonus point and they really came back at us in the second half, credit to the boys, they really held on," Higginbotham said.
"We got them on the back foot and it really started to open up for us."
The Rebels began strongly and scored two tries in the opening 20 minutes before former Wallaby scrum-half Luke Burgess darted over from a ruck close to the Cheetahs' try-line to stretch the lead to 17-0.
The Cheetahs hit back early in the second half with replacement Jean Cook scoring off a maul.
But despite losing open-side flanker Scott Fuglistaller to a yellow card in the 51st minute they clinched a four-try bonus point through Bryce Hegarty.
The Cheetahs scored their second try through replacement Ryno Barnes to get within 10 points but the home side finished strongly with their fifth try coming deep into stoppage time through Higginbotham.
"We were very lethargic, especially in the first half, and we weren't there in attack, we didn't ask any questions of them," Cheetahs skipper Adriaan Strauss said.
"Credit to the Rebels, they got a lot of yards on us in attack and they made us pay.
"We were shocking at ruck time, we lost possession three or four times from the set phase in the first ruck and we couldn't get any plays going.
"They definitely upset today, especially at the breakdown."
The Cheetahs stay in Australia where they will take on the Reds in Brisbane next Friday, while the Rebels travel to Perth to take on Western Force.
Final Score Rebels 35 (17) Cheetahs 14 (0)
Tries - L.Mitchell, J.Woodward, L.Burgess, B.Hegarty. S.Higginbotham
Con - B.Hegarty 2
Drop - A.Roberts
Cards - S. Fuglistaller (51st min yellow)
Tries - J.Cook, R.Barnes
Con - J.Goosen 2
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1:Matt O'Brien
Assistant Ref 2:Michael Hogan
1. Toby Smith ,2. Pat Leafa,3. Laurie Weeks,4. Hugh Pyle,5. Luke Jones,6. Sean McMahon ,7. Scott Fuglistaller,8. Scott Higginbotham (C),9. Luke Burgess,10. Bryce Hegarty,11. Tom English,12. Mitch Inman,13. Tamati Ellison ,14. Lachlan Mitchell,15. Jason Woodward
Replacements : 16. Steve Fualau ,17. Max Lahiff ,18. Paul Alo-Emile,19. Cadeyrn Neville,20. Colby Fainga'a ,21. Ben Meehan ,22. Angus Roberts,23. Tom Kingston
1 Caylib Oosthuizen ,2 Adriaan Strauss (c ) ,3 Coenie Oosthuizen ,4 Lodewyk de Jager ,5 Francois Uys ,6 Boom Prinsloo ,7 Lappies Labuschagne ,8 Philip van der Walt ,9 Shaun Venter ,10 Johan Goosen ,11 Raymond Rhule ,12 Francois Venter ( vc) ,13 Johann Sadie ,14 Cornal Hendricks ,15 Willie le Roux
Replacements : 16. Ryno Barnes ,17. Trevor Nyakane ,18. Maks van Dyk ,19. Ligtoring Landman ,20. Jean Cook ,21. Sarel Pretorius ,22. Elgar Watts ,23. Hennie Daniller