The Bulls scored a late try to secure a bonus point victory over the Highlanders at Loftus.
The Bulls practically had the match wrapped at half time, leading 23 – 6 at the break before winning 35 – 18.
Morne Steyn kicked 15 points in a match that was dominated by the physical men from Pretoria. The Highlander were full of running but lacked the basic handling skills to do anything with their possession.
The first try of the match was scored in the opening two minutes, JJ Engelbrecht rounding off a well worked move. The second try was a bit more dubious. The Bulls turned over deep in their own territory, Akona Ndungane finished off the 100m try. Replays showed a knock on from JJ Engelbrecht, but the try was nonetheless awarded. In the bigger scheme of things, a try would not make a difference, but it is a matter of principal. This weekend again had plenty of cases in which the TMO, with all their replays, still cannot get a decision right.
That being said, Colin Slade kept the Highlanders scoreboard ticking in the first half, kicking two penalties.
Pierre Spies scored the third Bulls try, off a great attacking line-out, a typical Bulls movement. The replacements started coming on and the momentum was slightly lost, allowing the Highlanders to build some confidence. This resulted in two tries being scored to narrow the gap.
The last few moments saw Jano Vermaak scoring in the corner, wrapping up a bonus point for the Bulls and ensuring top spot on the South African conference, no matter the Cheetahs result.
Discipline was an issue for the Highlanders, receiving two yellow cards throughout the match, one for a high tackle, while Chris King saw yellow for bringing down a rolling maul. This allowed a dominant Bulls forward pack to control the match even more.
The Bulls next take on the Sharks in Durban while the Highlanders return to New Zealand via Australia to face the Force.
Bulls: 35 (23)
Tries: JJ Engelbrecht, Akona Ndungane, Pierre Spies, Jano Vermaak
Conversions: Morne Steyn (3)
Penalties: Morne Steyn (3)
Highlanders: 18 (6)
Tries: Fumiaki Tanaka, Tamati Ellison
Conversions: Colin Slade (1)
Penalties: Colin Slade (2)
By Richard Ferguson