The Bulls on Saturday beat the Vodacom Stormers 25-19 at Loftus Versfeld in Prwetoria in a warm-up match for the Vodacom Super 14.
The significance of the game was the return to action for Springbok flanker Schalk Burger.
Burger sat out most of last season due to a career threatening neck injury, but it was business as usual as Burger showed why he his the Stormers and Springboks lethal weapon with his speed around the park and donkey work at the points of breakdown.
The Stormers joy, though, was a bitter sweet pill for the Bulls who are likely to be without upcoming Springbok star Chiliboy Ralepelle after it was suspected that the hooker may have pulled ligaments in his left knee and might miss the first four weeks of the tournament.
The win for the Bulls will reinforce the illusions of grandeur held by most South Africans that the Bulls will be the first South African team to win the Super 14.
The Bulls, parading new signing and former lions captain Wikus van Heerden, were especially dominant with their forwards who were well marshaled by Victor Matfield.
The visitors offered scant opposition in the engine room and Gary Botha’s try in the fifth minute came as a direct result of the Bulls dominance upfront.
Ten minutes later Springbok winger Akona Ndungane increased the Bulls lead to 10-0 when he crossed the line in the corner.
However, the Stormers known for their elusive backline running, hit back when Corne Uys crossed over in the 25th minute to score under the poles.
Ndungane’s opportunistic ways increased the Bulls lead in the 30th minute after the winger snatched a lob pass from Matfield.
By half-time the Stormers had hauled themselves within five points after Gio Aplon had scored a try as the hooter blew.
The second half was a start stop affair with both teams having made a number of substitutions.
But it was the Stormers who went into the lead for the first time in the game when Robbie Diack crashed over in the 47th minute.
However, three minutes later the Bulls regained the lead by a solitary point, from a Derick Hougaard penalty.
Burger was eventually substituted in the 56th minute to a standing ovation from an approving Loftus crowd.
The Bulls eventually bagged this encounter in the 76th minute via a Van Heerden try.
For both teams to mount a serious challenge in the Super 14 a lot of work needs to done.
The Bulls need to improve their offensive backline play, while the Stormers could suffer heavy defeats this season if they continue to rely on other teams’ mistakes instead of creating their own opportunities.
Vodacom Bulls: Tries: Gary Botha, Akona Ndungane (2), Wickus van Heerden; Conversion: Morne Steyn; Penalty: Derick Hougaard.
Vodacom Stormers: Tries: Corne Uys, Robbie Diack; Conversion: Brent Russel, Naas Olivier.