Gert Smal's return to his old hunting ground proved bittersweet as his relentless Bulls made an ominous statement of intent in this year's Currie Cup, overwhelming his beloved Western Province by 40-21 at the Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday night.
The former Springbok assistant and two-time tournament-winning mentor had surprised various observers by once again picking a powerful match-23 - headlined by inclusions such as Marcell Coetzee and Bismarck du Plessis - despite Jake White's United Rugby Championship (URC) side resuming their campaign against the Stormers in less than three days' time.
That's in stark contrast to the other URC franchises, who've stuck to testing their depth and keeping their first-choice stars "fresh".
Smal, however, had reasonably argued in the build-up that the stop-start nature of the current season meant there was possibly little reason not to give frontline players some match-fitness.
Either way, it worked an absolute treat as the men from Loftus displayed the type of intensity and incisiveness that would've even made them difficult to stop for URC opposition.
The Bulls got in their groove from the start, conjuring up a mesmerising opening sequence of three minutes that was memorable for their variety on attack.
They were full of running, made a point of starving Province of any possession and showed admirable patience.
As it turned out, inside centre Harold Vorster's kick behind the home defence found debutant winger Canan Moodie, granting the Bulls unstoppable momentum as they kept the subsequent phases tight and sucked enough defenders in for fullback James Verity-Amm to cut sharply inside for the first try.
The recipe was the same for Moodie's maiden score as the Bulls kept possession sublimely in order to thin out Province's brigade of tacklers.
From thereon, things went barmy for the Streeptruie, who were not only thoroughly out-gunned in the collisions, but were simply unable to keep their discipline at the breakdown intact.
It became so clumsy at one stage that referee Marius van der Westhuizen lambasted their poachers for poor technique twice and also led to eighthman Keke Morabe's sin-binning.
That indiscretion proved costly as the Bulls scored 14 points in his absence.
No 8 Muller Uys peeled off from an attacking scrum and was barely stopped before Simphiwe Matanzima barged his way over.
It was no less than the marauding loosehead deserved, who was outstanding in broken play and was integral to a dominant Bulls scrum performance.
Flanker Cyle Brink and Du Plessis were further beneficiaries of their team's ruthlessness from close range, before scrumhalf Marco Jansen van Vuren sealed the deal in the 57th minute.
As Smal sent on his replacements, the Bulls lost some of their intensity and allowed Province to show some heart and skill, culminating in three tries.
The match ended on a sour note when Bulls replacement prop Jan-Hendrik Wessels was shown a straight red card for a dangerous cleanout on his Junior Bok team-mate Jacques Goosen.
Western Province - (0) 21
Tries: Nama Xaba, Tristan Leyds, Marcel Theunissen
Conversion: Tim Swiel (3)
Bulls - (28) 40
Tries: James Verity-Amm, Canan Moodie, Simphiwe Matanzima, Cyle Brink, Bismarck du Plessis, Marco Jansen van Vuren
Conversions: Morne Steyn (5)