The Bulls scored three second-half tries to come from behind and claim a bonus-point win against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Wednesday, edging closer to securing an unassailable lead at the top of the Currie Cup standings.
The Round 12 victory put the Bulls nine points clear as they contemplate a bye in the penultimate round of the league phase.
The Pumas, meanwhile, missed out on an opportunity to fortify their playoff hopes. Jimmy Stonehouse’s team came into the match in third place, just two points ahead of fifth-placed Western Province.
Despite naming a much-changed starting lineup after an exhausting 80-point draw with Western Province this past Sunday, the Pumas got off to a bright start, taking a 10-0 lead thanks to a try from flank Neil Otto and penalty from Neil Marais.
The Bulls hit back through tries from hooker Schalk Erasmus and wing Stravino Jacobs, but two penalties from Eddie Fouche saw the Pumas take a 16-14 lead into the break.
The Pumas lost centre Alwayno Visagie to a yellow card for a dangerous tackle shortly after the restart, but still managed to put themselves in a strong position when Sebstian de Klerk ran the length of the field to score.
Fouche’s second penalty, just after Bulls centre Stedman Gans was yellow-carded, put the Pumas 26-14 up and it seemed that the hosts were set to shock the log-leaders.
However, from there it was all Bulls as the visitors brought on their substitutes and they made all the difference. Two powerful driving mauls saw replacement hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels go over the tryline, before the Bulls were awarded a penalty try to secure the bonus point.
Tighthead prop Mornay Smith powered over the tryline to give the Bulls a seven-point lead and the Pretoria side held on for the final 10 minutes to secure the victory.