The Bulls moved to the top of the South African conference with a 36-26 win over the Western Force in Pretoria on Saturday.
It was by no means a classic performance from the home team, but the Bulls stuck to their guns despite the obvious negative tactics of a Force team intent on spoiling rather than entertaining.
The Bulls, knowing the Force didn't posses a real counter-attacking ability, employed a kicking game to great effect and winning the duel hands down in the first half.
How the Force managed to keep all 15 players on the field remains a mystery, given the cynical tactics they employed throughout the opening 40 minutes.
However, as the game progressed, the Force gained confidence in the knowledge that their tactics are being approved by the match officials and the Bulls became more disorganised - almost panicking in their endeavour to get the upperhand on the scoreboard.
When the referee's warning finally came, the Bulls showed their power by racing a maul over 20 metres towards the line to score a crucial try minutes from time and regain the lead. And then suddenly the penalties started to mount against the visitors, allowing the Bulls to play the game they wanted from the outset.
A typical Highveld storm marked the last 15 minutes of the build-up to the kick-off, although it seemed to ease off just before the start.
However, the Bulls did not see to bother the Bulls, with Morné Steyn strolling through a gap and over after a 35-metre run. Steyn couldn't add the extras, but the Bulls were on the board hardly two minutes after the kick-off.
The next score came via a drop-goal from former Cheetah flyhalf Sias Ebersohn, now playing in Perth - 3-5 after 10 minutes. However, Ebersohn's next drop-goal attempt was so shocking it almost hit the corner flag.
Steyn got the three points back as the final quarter came to an end, a penalty after some very cynical breakdown play by the Force when the Bulls were on attack just outside the 22.
Ebersohn slotted a penalty in the 27th minute, after the Bulls were penalised at a breakdown, to make it a two-point (6-8) game again. He had another shot, from just on 60 metres out, soon afterwards, and he put the Force in the lead for the first time 9-8.
Steyn regained the lead for the Bulls six minutes from the half-time break, as the Force continued with their negative tactics at the breakdown and maul. Another collapses maul - about the 10th in the game - gave Steyn a shot at goal right on the half-time hooter and he made no mistake - 14-9.
Ebersohn started the second half with his second drop-goal, 12-14.
However, the Bulls hit back in the most emphatic fashion - rookie Sampie Mastriet going over in the right corner, after some great phase-play by the Bulls and Mastriet beat his marker with ease. Steyn failed to add the extras, 19-12.
The Bulls pushed hard, but Angus Cottrell intercepted a Steyn pass and raced 50 metres downfield to get the Force's first try. Ebersohn's conversion made it 19-all.
And when Toby Lynn then worked his way through the middle of a ruck to get a second try, the Force hit the front again - Ebersohn's conversion making it 26-19 going into the final quarter.
Steyn again pulled three points back, following yet another Force transgression at the breakdown - 22-26.
The referee finally spoke to the Force about their repeated infringements and a minute later Jean Cook scored his maiden Super Rugby try at the back of fast-running maul. Steyn added the conversion - 29-26, with just under 10 minutes remaining.
The penalties continued to mount against the visitors, as the Bulls went in search of the bonus-point score.
And it was Kruger who got the fourth try, as he barged over from a number of pick-'n-drives. Steyn added the conversion to give the home fans something to celebrate - 36-26.
For the Bulls:
Tries: Steyn, Mastriet, Cook, Kruger
Cons: Steyn 2
Pens: Steyn 4
For the Western Force:
Tries: Cottrell, Lynn
Cons: Ebersohn 2
Pens: Ebersohn 2
DG: Ebersohn 2
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Arno Botha, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Jan Serfontein.
Western Force: 15 Will Tupou, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Richard Brown, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Hugh McMeniman, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Chris Alcock, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Jayden Hayward.
Referee: Jason Jaftha (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
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