superb bulls stand ground

IT was a weekend of woe for four of the five South African rugby sides in week 3 of the Super 14 with only the Bulls from Pretoria managing to secure a win.

IT was a weekend of woe for four of the five South African rugby sides in week 3 of the Super 14 with only the Bulls from Pretoria managing to secure a win.

The Bulls faithful don't refer to Loftus Versveld as "Fort Loftus" without justification and the boys in blue extended their unbeaten run at their home ground to 13 games with a hard-fought 48-38 win over the touring Waratahs from Australia on Saturday night.

Although often playing catch-up rugby for large chunks of the game, the Bulls only pulled away from the opposition in the last 20 minutes when the altitude began to take effect on the visitors.

Putting 17 points on the scoreboard in the opening 10 minutes, it looked like the Waratahs might just cause an upset, but they took their foot off the pedal to let the Bulls back in to the game and managed to go in to the half-time break with a slight 26-17 advantage.

Being the clinical side they are the Bulls clawed their way back to notch up 31 second-half points via tries from Francois Hougaard, Gerhard van den Heever, Wynand Olivier and Jacques-Louis Potgieter.

Speaking shortly after the match, Waratahs captain Phil Waugh acknowledged they were outplayed.

"We didn't manage to put it together for the full 80 minutes and paid the price. The Bulls are a great side," he said.

For the rest of the weekend, it wasn't pretty viewing for local fans. Friday night's clash between the Stormers and the Brumbies was definitely the pick of the weekends matches.

The Stormers went in to the game full of confidence after two convincing early season wins, but the Brumbies, after a disappointing game against the Bulls a week earlier, took the game to the hosts.

After the basketball-like scores from the week before it was good to get back to some sort of normality as the two sides went in to the half-time break 6-6 courtesy of penalties by Joe Pietersen for the Stormers and Matt Gitteau for the Brumbies.

It was a ding-dong battle between the two sets of forwards with Stormers hooker Tiaan Liebenberg always in the thick of things.

A late try by Brumbies captain George Smith - with only four minutes left on the clock - and it looked like the game was in the bag for the Canberra-based side.

The Stormers though launched an attack after the kickoff and in desperation their flanker Pieter Louw dotted down wide out in injury time.

The conversion by Pietersen was wide and handed the Brumbies the narrowest of victories 19-17. For the Lions on Saturday the Hurricanes were too classy as they ran out 33-18 winners.

The Lions will take some positives out of the match that will give coach Dick Muir and his staff something to work on midweek.

US import Todd Clever had a strong outing and was justly rewarded with a first-half try when he forced his way over the try line with three Hurricanes defenders desperately holding on.

Speaking after the game, Lions captain Cobus Grobelaar accurately summed it up: "We gave away some silly penalties and the mistakes definitely cost us. We need to work on those points and also improve on our defence.

In Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon the Cheetahs came up against a determined Highlanders looking for their first win of the season.

Tries by Kenny Lynn, Fetu'u Vainikolo and Michael Hobbs were enough to see the visitors walk away with the spoils 31-24 before heading for their next game against the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.