The Bulls put together their most complete performance in a competitive game so far under director of rugby Jake White with a domineering six-try 41-14 win over the Sharks at Loftus on Saturday.
The home side, clearly bruised by their Super Rugby Unlocked defeat to the Cheetahs last week, made amends in every facet of their play as they nullified a Sharks side that lacked cutting edge.
AS IT HAPPENED | Bulls 41-14 Sharks.
Just like they did during the Super Fan Saturday warm-up game last month, the Bulls threw their biggest punches in the first half, two of which landed and floored the visitors.
And there was familiarity about it, as Sevens speedster Stedman Gans was in the thick of it again, when the Bulls No 13 opened the scoring in the 28th minute.
The try, which looked easy by the time Gans finished unopposed under the sticks, came from the first real moment of loose play.
The Bulls capitalised on the broken play, stringing the kind of offload passing you would expect of their opponents but they proved the more adept attackers again in the meeting with the Durbanites.
Quickly, the Bulls landed a second hook to the Sharks chin four minutes later.
This time scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl was the instigator of the break, with a snipe from the base of the ruck on their left-hand touchline that snuck him enough yards to cause havoc in the Sharks defence.
New boy Elrigh Louw was there for the follow up and Van Zyl duly obliged him with a well-timed offload before he passed the favour to the marauding Marco van Staden, who out-sprinted Hyron Andrews to the try line.
While they were well behind and kept surprisingly quiet on offense by the Bulls, the Sharks clung on at half-time with three precious penalties off the boot of flyhalf Curwin Bosch. Morne Steyn added a penalty to the two converted tries to make it 17-9 to the hosts at the interval.
Turnovers conceded and a wobbly lineout were the Sharks’ undoing in their quest to wrest momentum from the Bulls.
They had no answers either for the loose trio combo of Duane Vermeulen, Elrigh Louw and Van Staden. Try as they could to get some gain line advantage, the Bulls had answers in defensive numbers and “jackalers” to contest on the floor.
Bereft of territory and possession, the Sharks were again floored early in the second half when Van Staden scored his second try in the 44th minute, this time at the back of a lineout drive.
At 24-9, the Bulls were in full control and entered cruise control. The Sharks tried clawing their way back and they scored from their first sniff of the try line in the 53rd minute when hooker Dylan Richardson powered his way over the line.
The joy was short-lived, however, as the Bulls cut the Sharks open again, this time through a Steyn grubber behind the Sharks defence aimed perfectly at winger Kurt-Lee Arendse, who offloaded to Gans for his second.
As the rain pelted down in Pretoria, coupled with a thunderstorm and hailstorm, the Bulls closed the game out with two late Marco Jansen van Vuren and Embrose Papier scores to make it two wins from three matches in the competition.
Bulls – 41 (17)
Penalty: Morne Steyn
Tries: Stedman Gans (2), Marco van Staden (2), Marco Jansen van Vuren, Embrose Papier
Conversions: Steyn (4)
Sharks – 14 (9)
Penalties: Curwin Bosch (3)
Try: Dylan Richardson
15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Substitutes: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren
15 Manie Libbok, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Werner Kok, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Phepsi Buthelezi, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Dylan Richardson, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Yaw Penxe