Jacques-Louis Potgieter kicked 20 points as Northern Bulls shrugged off a dismal start to the Super Rugby season by defeating fellow South Africans Golden Lions 25-17 on Saturday.
It was the first victory for the three-time champions after away losses against the Coastal Sharks and Central Cheetahs.
And it was the first defeat for unexpectedly good starters the Lions following victories away to the Cheetahs and at home to the Western Stormers.
Brilliant goal-kicking by fly-half Marnitz Boshoff had been the catalyst for the successes of perennial strugglers the Lions.
But it was the boot of Potgieter, back in Pretoria after spells with French outfits Bayonne and Dax, that proved decisive in the clash of Highveld neighbours.
Recalled after two poor shows by Louis Fouche, former Bulls, Sharks, and Cheetahs playmaker Potgieter was voted man of the match.
He succeeded with six of eight place-kicks – five penalties and a conversion – and also dropped a goal at the rain-soaked Loftus Versfeld stadium.
Centre Jan Serfontein completed the Bulls’ tally with a try that helped the home team build a 19-10 half-time advantage they never looked like relinquishing.
After 21 points against the Cheetahs and 29 against the Stormers, Boshoff had far fewer opportunities – potting two conversions and a penalty from four shots at goal.
His lone miss of the match – and first of the season – came in first-half stoppage time when a penalty attempt rebounded off the post.
A couple of former Bulls, centre Stefan Watermeyer and replacement hooker Willie Wepener, scored the Lions’ tries.
The Bulls, fielding 36-year-old, out-of-retirement lock Victor Matfield from the start for the first time this season, were deserved winners.
Neither side monopolised a single facet of play but the blue-shirted home side showed more hunger, knowing a third consecutive reverse would have triggered ‘crisis’ headlines.
“The key to our victory was converting chances into points,” said Bulls lock Flip van der Merwe, who has replaced long-term injury absentee Pierre Spies as skipper.
Lions captain and No.8 Warren Whiteley said: “Bulls were better than us tactically. They applied more pressure than we did.”