Super Rugby: Bulls beat Lions to open their account
The Bulls eased past the Lions 25-17 to record their first Super Rugby victory of 2014 at Loftus Versfeld.
Last Updated: 01/03/14 9:39pm
A try from centre Jan Serfontein and 20 points from the boot of fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter ensured the hosts claimed an important win.
Frans Ludeke fielded eight Springboks in his starting XV, with Victor Matfield making his 127th Super Rugby appearance - a record for a South African player.
Potgieter opened the scoring early on, banging over a long-range penalty after the visitors entered a maul from the side, and added a second two minutes later when the Lions strayed offside again.
But the hosts shot themselves in the foot straight from the kick-off; full-back Jurgen Visser gathered the restart cleanly, but dallied on the ball, and his attempted clearance was charged down by the onrushing Stephan Watermeyer.
The centre calmly followed up and grounded for the game's opening try. Fly-half Marnitz Boshoff converted without trouble.
The Bulls came roaring back to regain the lead ten minutes later. A turnover yielded quick ball for Ludeke's men, and with the Lions defence in disarray, play was smartly spread wide to Bjorn Basson.
Basson burned his way down the left touchline, before drawing the cover defence and releasing Serfontein to crash over unchallenged. Potgieter added the extras to restore the hosts' six-point cushion.
Boshoff and Potgieter exchanged three-pointers in the final ten minutes of the half; the Lions pivot's effort cancelled out by a booming 40-metre drop-goal and a close-range penalty from his opposite number, before Boshoff struck the post with practically the final kick of first forty minutes.
The rugby grew scrappier and the play more conservative after the break as both teams tired.
It was another 21 minutes before the scoreboard operators were called into action, Potgieter slotting penalty number four, and forcing the Lions to overcome a 12-point deficit.
That kick did seem to stir the Lions into life as the substitutes began to roll on and off, but they were blighted by their own imprecision and indiscipline.
The added power from the Bulls bench turned the tables in the scrummage - an area the visitors had edged in the first half - and the buckling Lions front-row allowed Potgieter to kill things off with another penalty on 74 minutes.
Johan Ackermann's men tried manfully to fight back and claim a losing bonus point, and they did manage a consolation score courtesy of another Bulls charge-down error.
Matfield stole a Lions lineout ten metres from his own line, but after Francois Hougaard recovered possession; he hammered his attempted touch-finder straight into the face of Willie Wepener; the substitute managing to flop on the loose ball in the in-goal area.
The hooker will no doubt be nursing a sore head this evening, but Boshoff landed the touchline conversion to leave his side eight points behind.
In spite of a frantic final minute down in Lions territory, neither side could add to the scoreline, and the Bulls finally got off the mark for their 2014 Super Rugby campaign.