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Super Rugby: Bulls seize control of SA conference
The Bulls opened an eight-point gap at the top of the South African conference with a 30-25 victory over the Cheetahs on Saturday.
The result leaves the Bulls two points behind the Chiefs at the top of the overall standings as they continued their unbeaten run against the Cheetahs in Super Rugby.
The sides scored three tries apiece in a hard-fought, high-tempo clash.
The Bulls held a deserved 17-10 lead at the end of a highly-entertaining first half that featured tries from Bulls prop Werner Kruger, flank Deon Stegmann and Cheetahs wing Willie le Roux.
Bulls replacement scrum-half Jano Vermaak, Cheetahs fly-half Riaan Smit and replacement prop Nyakane added tries in a far more tactical second half that saw Morne Steyn's accurate boot play an influential role.
The visitors drew first blood when a patient build up - highlighted by a few charges by Chiliboy Ralepelle - ended with Kruger hitting the line at pace and crashing over in the corner.
Morne Steyn added the extras but the home side replied soon afterwards with great solo try from le Roux, who scored under the sticks after collecting his own clever chip over the top.
The Bulls struck again at the end of the first quarter when Stegmann scored off the back of classic rolling maul and Steyn converted.
Riaan Smit pulled three points back for the Cheetahs when the Bulls scrum was put under pressure but Steyn restored the seven-point gap on the stroke of half time.
The Cheetahs were first to score after the interval as Smit found the target after another scrum penalty against the Bulls, but Steyn duly replied with two more penalties to leave the scores at 23-13 on the hour mark.
The visitors looked to have landed the killer blow when Vermaak raced clear to score behind the posts but Robert Ebersohn showed great hands to put Smit away to score in the corner and keep the Cheetahs in the hunt at 30-18.
Nyakane needed some help from the TMO to score a late bonus-point saving try for the Cheetahs as he stretched out an arm despite the attentions of a gang of Bulls defenders.