The Bulls beat the Stormers 33-23 in an exciting South African derby at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria.
Adriaan Strauss scored a hat-trick in his record-breaking 149th Super rugby appearance.
The former Springboks captain became the most capped South African Super Rugby player, and he had the game of his life.
Strauss, who had scored 14 tries in 12 years, dotted down three times inside 48 minutes at a slippery Loftus.
The Bulls dominated the game at the set-pieces, the breakdown and in defence.
Two tries from Strauss and Jonny Kotze gave the Bulls a commanding 19-6 lead, but a late two-minute blitz before half-time, saw the Stormers claw themselves back to within a point.
Tries from Jan de Klerk and Damian de Allende in the 36th and 39th-minute made it 19-18.
The second half was a see-saw affair with the two teams trading tries.
Strauss scored his third soon after the interval, but the Stormers would not lie down.
Siya Kolisi’s score on 66 minutes, made it a three-point 26-23 ball-game.
However, it was in vain as the Jesse Kriel’s try with 10 minutes to play, sealed the game for John Mitchell’s young side.
Former All Blacks coach Mitchell has his team playing a new brand of rugby.
The old-style Blue Bulls way of stodgy – but effective – forward play, is out.
Kicking to the corner at every opportunity, no matter the time of play, or the match situation, is in.
It did not work in the loss to the Crusaders, but it has the crowds coming back, and the Pretoria franchise exciting to watch.
The early exchanges were dominated by the Bulls pack; they bulldozed the Stormers forwards at both set-pieces, winning penalties at the scrum and lineouts.
They also had the better at the breakdown, especially late in the second half when Mitchell employed a strategy of two ‘fetchers’ which the Cape side could not combat.
The three-time Super Rugby champions raced into a 12-3 lead after Strauss’ seventh and 17th-minute tries.
Traditional Bulls’ strength is still en vogue.
Both tries resulted from kicking to the corner instead of taking the points.
And the Bulls’ driving maul flourished, marching the Stormers backwards. One of Strauss’ tries saw him dot down five metres over the goal line.
Damian Willemse’s boot kept his team in the hunt, halving the deficit with his second penalty despite having De Allende in the sin-bin for repeated cynical infringements.
The Stormers tried to play with width, but their handling was letting them down.
The Blou Bulle increased their lead to 13 points, on the half-hour, after Kotze dotted down.
The try was made by the sublime Pollard, who broke the line, took a tackle and gave a flip-pass out the back door to Warrick Gelant.
The fullback’s poor handling almost botched the move, but fortuitously, the ball deflected into Kotze’s hands and the wing cruised over the whitewash.
Late first-half blitz.
The game was slipping from the visitors, but they dug deep and fought back.
De Klerk crashed over from the side of a ruck with less than four minutes remaining in the half, giving his team a sniff.
Things went from good to great when De Allende chased his own chip-kick and beat Gelant to score under the posts.
Willemse’s conversion made it a one-point ball-game.
See-sawing second stanza.
All Robbie Fleck’s side’s good work was undone when some more ill-discipline.
Pieter-Steph Du Toit was sent to the naughty step for “dangerous and reckless play” after standing on Hendre Stassen’s head.
Moments’ later, Strauss had his treble.
The hooker collected Ramone Samuels’ overthrown lineout and barged over for his 17th Super Rugby try.
The Stormers were feeding off scraps, but their counter-attacks were causing their hosts problems. Dillyn Leyds was the chief influence, running from everywhere.
The game was being played between the 22s and handling errors, and penalties started mounting.
It was the visitors, finally managing to turn possession into points.
Captain fantastic Kolisi, scored after yet another counter-attack, bringing the scores to within three at 26-23.
An off day from the kicking tee had kept the Stormers in the game.
Pollard was kicking at 50 percent, only landing three from six attempts.
But his opposite number was also having an off day, missing a penalty before Kolisi’s try, and the conversion.
Bulls would not be denied.
It was in vain as the home side turned up the intensity, camping inside their opponent’s half.
Kriel finished the Stormers off with his team’s fifth try, but only after a TMO referral for a forward pass.
Mitchell’s tactical ploy of using Van Staden and Smit to boss the breakdown was working a treat.
The Stormers’ loose forwards struggled to compete in the tight phases and on the ground.
Pollard missed a long-range penalty but it was inconsequential.
Without possession in the red zone, and because of the Blue wall in front of them, Fleck’s men could not muster a comeback.
Instead, the Bulls squeezed them, and the clock to record an impressive derby victory.
Bulls Versus Stormers Video highlights from Loftus Versfeld.
Final score: Bulls 33 (19) Stormers 23 (18)
Tries – Strauss (3), Kotze, Kriel
Con – Pollard (3)
Cards – Gqoboka (Yellow, 80′)
Tries – De Klerk, De Allende, Kolisi
Pen – Willemse (2)
Con – Willemse
Cards – De Allende (Yellow, 16′), Du Toit (Yellow, 43′)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 1: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Ref 2: Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Willie Vos
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Jason Jenkins 4 Hendre Stassen, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Duncan Matthews.
15 Sarel Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian De Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Jano Vermaak, 23 Craig Barry.