The Bulls ground out their third Super Rugby victory of the season by beating the Cheetahs 23-18 at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls outscored the Cheetahs by three tries to two in a tight South African derby contest.
The Bulls coming off a bye, laid the foundation for a victory with three well-taken first-half tries which the Cheetahs were never able to match despite a strong second-half performance and went down 3-2 in the eventual try-count.
The visiting Cheetahs grabbed the initiative straight from the kick-off and made several attacking runs into the Bulls half. They managed to retain possession as they worked several multi-phase plays out wide but the Bulls defence stood firm.
Their early pressure brought a second-minute reward via a penalty from flyhalf Niel Marais but his opposite number Tiaan Schoeman restored the stalemate six minutes later (3-3).
The Bulls were battling to exit their half mainly as a result of poor handling when they tried to run their way out trouble from deep options. However, once they managed to transfer play to the Cheetahs’ half they were able to breakdown down the defence and scored twice in the space of seven minutes.
The first was a 13th-minute effort by lock RG Snyman and his second-row partner Jason Jenkins was next across the whitewash. Schoeman was on target with one conversion attempt, allowing the Bulls to open up a 12-point lead (15-3).
Both touchdowns were scored during a passage of play when then Cheetahs were down to 14 players after No 8 Paul Schoeman was banished to the sin bin by referee Craig Joubert for cynical play at a time when the Bulls were held up a stride away from the tryline.
Just on the hour mark, the Cheetahs waged a spirited attack deep into the Bulls half and the sortie ended with a Sergeal Petersen try after he played a key role in the build-up work. Marais goaled to reduce the deficit (15-10).
Play had hardly restarted and the Bulls barged over for their third try through wing Jamba Ulengo. The conversion went wide but the Bulls opened a 10-point which only just survived after they defended the Cheetahs’ five-metre line-out two minutes after the halftime hooter had sounded (20-10).
The disappointing aspect of the Cheetahs’ first-half display was the number of turn-overs they conceded as the first half wore on although initially they did well to look after their possession.
The start of the second half was a replica of the first-half start and the Cheetahs’ strong show earned them another Marais penalty four minutes later (20-13).
There was a dramatic change of momentum in the match as the immense power of the Cheetahs pack started to tell and the Bulls were pinned down in their own half. The Cheetahs had no answer to a maul from the back of a Cheetahs line-out and prop Torsten Van Jaarsveld rounded off with an unconverted try, to reduce the fare to a two-pointer (20-18).
Schoeman kept the Bulls in the picture with a 57th-minute penalty (23-18).
The Bulls made the game safe in the final minutes when they kept playing in the Cheetahs’ 22m area as they made a meal of several missed tackles to keep building pressure although they were unable to add to their score.
The Cheetahs have a bye next week while the Bulls travel to Port Elizabeth to face the Southern Kings.
Cheetahs No.8 Paul Schoeman was named man of the match.
Final Score Bulls 23 (20) Cheetahs 18 (10)
Tries – RG Snyman, J.Jenkins, J.Ulengo
Pen – T.Schoeman 2
Tries – S.Petersen, T. van Jaarsveld
Pen – N.Marais 2
Con – N.Marais
Cards – P.Schoeman (11th min yellow)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Ref 1:Shuhei Kubo
Assistant Ref 2:AJ Jacobs
TMO :Willie Vos
Jesse Kriel, Travis Ismaiel, Jan Serfontein , Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo, Tian Schoeman, Rudy Paige, Arno Botha/Nic de Jager , Jannes Kirsten, Roelof Smit, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Marcel van der Merwe , Adriaan Strauss, Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: Bandise Maku, Trevor Nyakane , Pierre Schoeman, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Lappies Labuschagne , Ivan van Zyl, Francois Brummer, SP Marais.
1. Ox Nche , 2. Torsten van Jaarsveld , 3. Johan Coetzee , 4. Lodewyk de Jager (vc) , 5. Francois Uys , 6. Boom Prinsloo , 7. Uzair Cassiem , 8. Paul Schoeman , 9. Shaun Venter , 10. Niel Marais , 11. Raymond Rhule , 12. Nico Lee , 13. Francois Venter (C) , 14. Sergeal Petersen , 15. Clayton Blommetjies
Replacements: 16. Jacques du Toit , 17. Charles Marais , 18. Maks van Dyk , 19. Carl Wegner , 20. Hilton Lobberts , 21. Henco Venter , 22. Tian Meyer , 23. Fred Zeilinga