Super Rugby round nine
Bulls end Cheetahs' winning run
April 13, 2013
Morne Steyn's 16 points helped the Bulls prevail at Loftus Versfeld
© Getty Images
The Bulls celebrated their 75th birthday in fitting fashion with a hard-fought 26-20 win over fellow South Africans the Cheetahs in a full-blooded Super 15 clash on Saturday.
The match before a 35,000 Loftus Versfeld crowd took a decisive turn early in the second half when the Bulls scored 10 points in four minutes to turn a 9-6 half-time deficit into a seven-point lead.
A gallant Cheetahs' side came within two points just seven minutes from time when impressive prop Trevor Nyakane crashed over for a try, but the Bulls responded by scoring one of their own.
Replacement forward Callie Visagie got the touch down after a number of forward surges and fly-half Morne Steyn converted to finish with a 16-point tally.
But the Cheetahs from Bloemfontein deserved something from an absorbing South African derby and they got a losing bonus point after the hooter sounded when substitute fly-half Francois Brummer kicked a penalty.
That point squeezed the Cheetahs into the top-six because they have won more matches than the Bulls and the Hurricanes, who suffered a 28-6 loss to the Blues in a New Zealand showdown.
Bulls fans had cause to celebrate (video available only in Australia)%]
Victory for the Bulls confirmed their dominance over the Cheetahs, having won the past nine meetings, and it ended a record five-match winning run by the visitors in the southern hemisphere championship.
But the Cheetahs showed why they have improved so much this season, matching the three-time champion Bulls in every facet of the game, only to find the home defence almost impenetrable during a hectic climax.
Bulls discard Burton Francis kicked three first-half penalty goals for the Cheetahs and Steyn two for the Bulls, who must have been shocked to find themselves trailing at the break after dominating possession and territory.
Coach Frans Ludeke told the Bulls to be more patient and clinical during the second half and they were soon in front as scrum-half Jano Vermaak eluded several tackles to dart over for a try, with Steyn converting.
Steyn kicked a penalty and added another after Francis had done likewise for the Cheetahs to leave the Bulls 19-12 ahead 55 minutes into a physical battle the crowd was relishing.
The Cheetahs applied constant pressure, but were often forced to run across the pitch until Nyakane bulldozed over, only for Francis to miss a difficult conversion that would have brought the teams level with six minutes left.