The Vodacom Bulls climbed to second overall in the Vodacom Super Rugby standings and consolidated top spot in the SA conference, courtesy of a 48-18 victory over the Southern Kings at Loftus Verfseld on Saturday.
The hosts secured their four-try bonus point inside 34 minutes, before going on to out-score the Kings six tries to two, boosting their chances of clinching a home semifinal.
Having started the brighter of the sides, the Bulls were rewarded for their fine form with ball in hand, setting up Louis Fouchè in the sixth minute to break through the Kings defence and dot down for the Pretoria side's first try of the match.
The visitors replied through Demetri Catrakilis, who slotted two penalties to get within a point of the Bulls, before Fouchè was forced off the field due to injury and replaced by Springbok flyhalf Mornè Steyn after just 17 minutes.
Steyn took over the kicking duties and while he sent his first effort wide, he made a contribution with the boot midway through the half to take the Bulls four points clear.
The hosts maintained the pressure as the Kings conceded several penalties inside their own half, and the Bulls managed to burst over the line as Chiliboy Ralepelle sprinted away from his tackler and dotted down under the posts.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when Jan Serfontein scored the Bulls' third try from the restart, after Akona Ndungane's enterprising play allowed him to crash over in the corner, with Steyn adding the additional points.
And the half was far from over, as Francois Hougaard secured the four-try bonus point, darting through the Kings' defence and coasting home for the Bulls.
A quieter second period followed as the Kings mounted a fightback, with Van der Walt scoring his second of the night in the 54th minute, after the visitors mauled their way over the line, leaving the Bulls at sixes-and-sevens.
But the home side would not stay down for long, as Jacques Potgieter rounded off a sustained period of pressure from the Bulls, crossing the whitewash on the hour mark and restoring the hosts' advantage.
The Kings had no answer and Deon Stegmann was sent over the line from a Bulls rolling maul, before falling on the ball to hand the conference leaders their sixth five-pointer of the game.
The win lifted the Bulls to 59 points, level with the Brumbies, but they were ahead of the Australian side due to a higher number of victories.
They also moved to within two points of log leaders the Chiefs with two rounds of matches remaining before the playoffs.
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Louis Fouchè, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann. Conversions: Fouche, Mornè Steyn (5). Penalties: Steyn(2).
Southern Kings – Tries: Wimpie van der Walt (2). Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis (2).