Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen kicked an early dropped goal and four penalties to send former champions the Bulls to a second straight defeat to start the Super Rugby season.
Goosen kicked all the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs' points in the 15-9 win Friday in wet and dreary conditions at their Free State Stadium, the first success for the Cheetahs over the Bulls in Super Rugby.
The three-time champion Bulls only managed two penalties from replacement Handre Pollard and one from starting No. 10 Louis Fouche to follow up a 31-16 hammering at the Sharks in round one.
The Bulls started with scrumhalf Francois Hougaard and centers Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht in a Springbok-filled backline, but they had little impact and the Cheetahs led 12-3 at halftime.
Pollard came on in the second half to close it to six points by the 79th but the Cheetahs held out. Victor Matfield was also introduced off the bench, as he was in Durban last weekend, yet even the former Springboks second-rower couldn't rouse the Pretoria team from its sluggish start to the year.
Captain and No. 8 Pierre Spies was ruled out of the game for the Bulls with injury and they had no continuity again to slip to 0-2 before the majority of the New Zealand and Australian teams join the competition Saturday.
The Sharks lead Super Rugby off their bonus-point win over the Bulls, with the defending champion Chiefs second after beating New Zealand rivals the Crusaders earlier Friday. The Cheetahs, South Africa's surprise package to reach the playoffs for the first time last season, are fourth with four points from two games.
The Cheetahs opened with a one-point loss to the newly-promoted Lions. Aiming to put that right, Goosen landed his drop from 35 meters (38 yards) in the second minute to set the tone and kicked penalties in the sixth, 26th and 29th minutes, and his last one in the 61st. The Cheetahs also defended strongly to keep the Bulls at arm's length throughout.
Pollard's second shot gave the Bulls a glimpse of stealing something at six points behind with a minute to go. The Cheetahs snapped up possession after the restart and took the ball out of play to confirm their first win over their Highveld rivals in the southern hemisphere championship.
Which two NZ teams look the most likely to make the Super Rugby playoffs?