The Vodacom Bulls were made to sweat for a 30-19 win over the Waratahs at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday, but stayed top of the South African conference.
In a game that saw the Waratahs heavily penalised, but surprisingly escaping any cards for cynical play, the visitors outscored the home team by three tries to two, reports iafrica.com
However, their lack of discipline allowed flyhalf Morné Steyn to kick six penalties - to go with a try and a conversion - as his team won a game of inches.
It was the Bulls' eighth straight win over the Waratahs and more than seven years since the team from Sydney last beat their rivals from Pretoria.
The Bulls were forced into a late change, when Ulrich Beyers replaced Jürgen Visser at fullback. Visser picked up a dead leg in the week and did not recover in time.
While the Waratahs had the edge in the scrums, the Bulls made a mockery of the visitors line-outs - with Juandre Kruger, Flip van der Merwe and Pierre Spies winning turnovers at crucial stages.
It was an inauspicious start for the Tahs - Bernard Foley kicking directly into touch and Brendan McKibbin penalised at a tackle in quick succession. Morné Steyn slotted the penalty for an early lead.
That became 6-0 in the ninth minute, when the Waratahs went offside under pressure inside their own 22, as the Bulls continued to apply the blowtorch.
Just short of the end of the first quarter Michael Hooper was penalised for slapping the ball out of the scrumhalf's hand and Steyn made it 9-0.
However, he pushed one past the upright from about 50 metres out in the 24th minute, after the Tahs were again penalised at the breakdown.
It was not till after the half-hour mark that the Tahs had a real scoring chance, McKibbin taking a shot from about halfway. However, he pushed it wide of the uprights.
The visitors eventually opened their account when fullback Israel Folau showed what all the hype is about as he stepped a couple of Bulls tackles to go over in the left corner. McKibbin was again wayward with the kick - 5-9 after 37 minutes.
Right on the half-time hooter the visitors were penalised for a string of offences at a fast-moving Bulls maul and Steyn made it 12-5 at the break.
The visitors opened the scoring after the break, with Michael Hooper running through the feeble tackle of JJ Engelbrecht and off-loading to prop Paddy Ryan for the Tahs' second try. McKibbin levelled the scores (12-all) with the conversion.
When another penalty scrum went against the Bulls in the 53rd minute, but again McKibbin was wide of the mark.
Just short of the hour mark the Waratahs were again penalised at the breakdown and Steyn put his team back in the lead - 15-12.
The Bulls launched a ferocious raid, but deep inside the Tahs' half they lost control of the ball and Israel Folau started a counter that resulted in Bernard Foley scoring 70 metres downfield. McKibbin added the extras as the Waratahs took the lead for the first time with 18 minutes to go - 19-15.
However, the Bulls hit straight back - Francois Hougaard, in his first game back after a long injury lay-off, going over near the upright. Steyn's conversion made it 22-19.
The Bulls won a penalty near halfway and from just on 50 metres out Steyn stretched the lead to 25-19, with 10 minutes remaining.
And the home team now played a great territorial game, which resulted in a penalty to the Bulls and a line-out 10 metres out with just a minute left on the clock.
It took the Bulls just a quick few rucks before Morné Steyn slipped over near the right corner. Steyn couldn't add the extras, but he had won secured his team a vital win - 30-19.
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn. Conversion: Morne Steyn. Penalty: Steyn (6).
Waratahs - – Tries: Israel Folau, Paddy Ryan, Bernard Foley. Conversions: Brendan McKibbin (2).