Sharp-running center Wynand Olivier scored a hat-trick of tries for the Bulls, who overwhelmed the Melbourne Rebels 47-10 in a Super Rugby mismatch at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Rebels, tournament newcomers on their first visit to one of South Africa’s rugby fortresses, made most of the running in the first seven minutes, but were then outclassed as the defending champions scored seven tries to one.
The Bulls scored six of those tries in the first half, often with ridiculous ease, but the Rebels did make them work harder after the break.
Victory kept the Bulls, who sit in eighth place, in playoff contention.
“It was an unbelievable first half, we scored some good, easy tries,” Bulls captain Fourie du Preez said.
The Bulls rampage started after Olivier ran on to an excellent chip by flyhalf Morne Steyn, gathering the ball and speeding clear of the cover-defense.
The intensity of the Bulls game forced numerous mistakes from the Rebels and after Steyn had hacked through a dropped pass to force a lineout on the 10m line, an exciting run by winger Bjorn Basson set up fullback Zane Kirchner for the second try.
A Julian Huxley penalty in the 17th minute would be the Rebels’ only points of the first half and their shoulders dropped when the Bulls extended their lead thanks to a controversial try by Basson.
Kirchner appeared to have knocked-on a pass and with all the defenders standing and waiting for the whistle, the Springbok winger picked up the ball and strolled over the line. The try was awarded as referee Chris Pollock ruled the ball had come off Kirchner’s chest.
The Bulls followed up from the kickoff with a brilliant length-of-the-field try, Basson cracking on the pace and Olivier and outside center Stephan Dippenaar combining to send Springbok Olivier over for his second try.
A fine back line move the allowed the pacy Kirchner to zip over for his second try and scrumhalf Du Preez scored three minutes before the break.
The Rebels regrouped and got their reward with a breathtaking try by replacement winger Cooper Vuna, who scorched down the right touchline and also showed good control with the boot in his kick-and-chase try.
However, Olivier had the last word when he stepped back inside the defense to complete his hat-trick just before the hour.
CHEETAHS VS CRUSADERS
Cheetahs flyhalf Sias Ebersohn scored 23 points, while his brother Robert scored a try in their Super Rugby victory over New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders on Saturday.
Man-of-the-match Sias Ebersohn scored a try of his own and kicked 18 points in a near--faultless performance to condemn the visitors to their third loss in 12 matches.
The result leaves the Crusaders trailing countrymen the Auckland Blues by five points at the top of the New Zealand conference.
The underachieving Cheetahs are likely out of playoff contention in the South African conference and while this was only their fourth win from 12 matches, it was their third on the trot — a franchise record.
“It was a great day for Cheetah rugby,” skipper Adriaan Strauss said. “We’ve had some tough times this season and credit to the coaching staff. Against the Crusaders you can never say you’ve got it in the bag, but we did what we needed to do.”
“We made mistakes and didn’t feel we were in control of the game,” Crusaders captain Richie McCaw said. “We got desperate and came second. The way we played tonight we will have to make many improvements if we are to be there at the end.”