Key win for Bulls
The Blue Bulls moved off the bottom of the Currie Cup Premier Divison table with a 26-10 win over the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld.
A poor level of execution in the opening 40 minutes resulted in a narrow 5-3 lead for the Cheetahs at half-time, Riaan Smit the sole try scorer in a frustrating half for the home fans.
However the Bulls played with a greater fluidity in the second half and dominated the scoreboard, fly-half Handre Pollard kicking 16 points overall to go with two tries from forwards Paul Willemse and Wiaan Liebenberg.
The win sees the Bulls overtake Griquas at the bottom of the table after their loss in Kimberly earlier in the day to the Lions.
Pollard's penalty opened the scoring for the beleaguered Bulls as they looked to get the Currie Cup campaign back on track, after only one win in their opening four matches.
The Cheetahs on the other hand had enjoyed an excellent start to the 2013 tournament and continued that form early on, bagging the first try after Smit dived over in the right -hand corner following a fine pass from Robert Ebersohn.
Points from then on in the first-half were strictly limited as key chances went begging.
Sarel Pretorius was denied a try of his own - a previous knock-on cancelling out the score after consultation with the TMO.
Both defences played at a high standard and as a result hindered any more scoring in the first half, although Ebersohn appeared to squander an excellent opportunity when he was released down the left touchline, before opting to cut inside rather than going for the corner.
With opportunities wasted by both sides, it was the Cheetahs who lead 5-3 at the break.
Pollard's second penalty after half-time put the hosts back in front as the Loftus crowd did their best to lift the home side.
Another strike from Pollard minutes later, after the Cheetahs went offside, meant the momentum had firmly swung back in the favour of Bulls with a 9-5 lead.
The Cheetahs have become renowned for the impressive play with ball in hand, but at times it proved to be their undoing - a penalty offence for holding on resulting in Pollard striking a third penalty in the half to keep the Bulls out in front.
Their first try shortly followed. Willemse used every inch of his giant frame to stretch out and make contact with the try line for the hosts' first five-pointer of the match.
Playing with a more direct style in attack, the Bulls came close again through tighthead prop Frik Kirsten, who came up just short of the line.
It proved a costly miss as the Cheetahs flew back up the field from the resulting scrum, culminating in fly-half Elgar Watts producing a magnificent solo score as he stepped his way inside the Bulls defence and had enough pace to beat Jürgen Visser to the line.
Working at a higher tempo than their opponents, the Bulls' replacements spurred their side on as they hunted for a second try.
They didn't have to wait long - Wiaan Liebenberg burrowing over from the back of a rolling maul as the hosts wrapped up a much needed victory.
<b>For Blue Bulls:</b><br><b>Tries:</b> Willemse, Liebenberg<br><b>Cons:</b> Pollard 2<br><b>Pens:</b> Pollard 4
<b>For Free State Cheetahs:</b><br><b>Tries:</b> Smit, Watts<br><b>Con:</b><br><b>Pens:</b>
<b>Blue Bulls:</b> 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Akona Ndungane, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Jono Ross (c), 7 Jacques Engelbrecht, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 David Bulbring, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Ulrich Beyers, 22 Clayton Blommetjies/Tiaan Schoeman.
<b>Free State Cheetahs:</b> 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo (c), 5 Lodewyk De Jager, 4 Teboho Mohoje, 3 Rossouw De Klerk, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Trevor Nyakane.<br><b>Replacements:</b> 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Wian Du Preez, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Willie Du Plessis, 22 Piet Lindeque
<b>Referee:</b> Stuart Berry