Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn kicked 22 points to help the Bulls to a 32-23 victory over the Sharks in an all-South African Super Rugby match at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
Steyn, a veteran of 25 Tests, missed just one of his eight attempts at goal and succeeded with five penalties, two conversions and a drop goal.
The win kept the Bulls’ slim playoff hopes alive as they moved to 40 points, eight behind the Stormers in the South African conference and four behind the second-placed Sharks.
The visitors dominated the first quarter, roaring into a 20-6 lead, while the home side’s cause was not helped by their poor lineout performances early in the match.
Left wing Francois Hougaard scored the opening try of the contest courtesy of a stolen Sharks’ lineout in the host’s 22m area.
Steyn and his opposite number Patrick Lambie traded penalties, before the visitors stretched their lead when a line break from inside center Wynand Olivier resulted in lock Bakkies Botha diving over from close range for a converted try.
Steyn and Lambie again traded penalties, before Steyn completed the first half scoring with a snap drop-goal from 25m out.
The flyhalf was responsible for the first points of the second half when he succeeded with a 40m penalty attempt, before the Sharks launched a comeback which narrowed the deficit to 10 points.
The hosts finally breached their opponent’s defense when hooker Bismarck du Plessis barreled over after a quick tap penalty from scrumhalf Charl McLeod 5m from the Bulls’ try line, before a Lambie penalty left the score at 26-16 after 60 minutes
Before a crowd of 35 143, Steyn ended any hopes the Sharks had of pulling off an unlikely victory with two more penalties to kill the match off as a contest despite a consolation try for the home side when center Adrian Jacobs slid over in the corner in the 75th minute.
CHEETAHS 41, REBELS 21
The Cheetahs recorded a fourth successive victory on Saturday with a win over Australia’s Melbourne Rebels.
Skipper Adriaan Strauss and center Corne Uys each scored a brace of tries, while flyhalf Sias Ebersohn kicked 14 points. The Cheetahs, though, remained in fourth place in the South African conference and out of playoff contention.
The Rebels, the tournament’s latest recruits, suffered their 10th loss in 13 games and are bottom of the Australian conference.
The home side raced into a 14-0 lead inside 20 minutes thanks to tries from Uys and international rugby sevens winger Ryno Benjamin. Both were converted by the in-form Ebersohn, who collected 23 points against the Crusaders last week.
The Rebels opened their account through a try by hooker Ged Robinson from a well-worked lineout move, but Strauss’s first try on the stroke of halftime restored the 14-point gap.
Ebersohn turned the screw with two penalties shortly after the restart, before veteran Wallabies winger Mark Gerrard gave his team a glimmer of hope with a try on the hour that showed he has lost none of his ability to break tackles.
However, Gerrard went from hero to villain three minutes later when he failed to gather a kick ahead by Ebersohn, allowing Benjamin to flick the ball up to Uys to dive in spectacularly at the corner.
Strauss barged over for his second try with 12 minutes to go to put the result beyond doubt, although the match ended on a low note for Benjamin when he was red-carded for headbutting Rebels skipper Stirling Mortlock in the 75th minute.