The Bulls ended a four match losing streak when they beat the Cheetahs 26-21 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The victory was the Bulls first in five matches as they drew with the Chiefs before their tour and lost four matches on tour. The victory evens out the number of wins between the teams for 2014 as the Cheetahs beat the Bulls 15-9 in Bloemfontein in the second round. The result is the Bulls fourth win of the season from eleven matches while the loss is the Cheetahs eighth from eleven matches.
The Cheetahs remained on the bottom of the standings and the Bulls held on to the tenth place overall and the second place in the South African Conference. The Bulls erased a nine-point first-half deficit to outscore the visitors in the second half and deny them their first victory at Loftus Versfeld. The visitors opened an 18-9 lead after the first 40 minutes thanks to two tries and a bit of luck, while the home side were slightly flat-footed in the opening exchanges.
The Bulls took an early lead thanks to a Handre Pollard penalty conversion in the seventh minute before Elgar Watts responded for the Cheetahs two minutes later with a three-pointer of his own. The hosts had a tough time at the breakdown, where they conceded plenty of turnovers, allowing the Cheetahs’ dangerous outside backs possession with which to launch attacks. Against the flow of the game, the Cheetahs found a breakthrough in the 18th minute when centre Johann Sadie sprinted the length of the field to score.
The try stemmed from an encouraging Bulls’ attack inside the Cheetahs’ 22 when Sadie intercepted a Pollard pass meant for Grant Hattingh. Watts converted Sadie’s try. Four minutes later the Bulls suffered another blow when Pollard was yellow-carded in a rather cynical call for not retreating. The Cheetahs grabbed the three points for the penalty to extend their lead to 13-3 before Bulls’ fullback Jurgen Visser narrowed the gap six minutes later with a penalty goal.
Three minutes before the half-time break, Pollard brought his side within four points of the Cheetahs with a penalty conversion. The Cheetahs, however, had the final say when Raymond Rhule was the final receiver to dot down in the right-hand corner. The backline put the ball smoothly through the hands, with Sadie establishing the gap before off-loading beautifully to Benjamin who in turn sent a long pass to Rhule on the wing for the try. Watts missed the conversion.
The Bulls made a spirited drive on the Cheetahs’ line after the break, with the visitors initially absorbing the pressure. The hosts finally broke through in the 45th minute when towering lock Paul Willemse surged over the line for a try, with Pollard converting to bring the home side within two points of the visitors. Goosen pulled back three points in the 52nd minute before the Bulls again found the tryline with hooker Callie Visagie this time the recipient.
Pollard added the two points to give the hosts a 23-21 lead. In the 67th minute, Jacques-Louis Potgieter slotted a penalty conversion which proved to be the final points of the match.
Final Score Bulls 26 (9) Cheetahs 21 (18)
Tries – P.Willemse, C.Visagie
Pen – H.Pollard 2, J.Visser, J.Potgieter
Con – H.Pollard 2
Cards – H.Pollard (21st min yellow)
Tries – J.Sadie,R.Rhule
Pen – E.Watts 2, J.Goosen
Con – E,Watts