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Bulls return home, end 4-game losing streak in Super Rugby with 26-21 win over Cheetahs

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PRETORIA, South Africa - The Bulls stayed unbeaten at home this season in Super Rugby with a 26-21 win over the Cheetahs on Saturday, ending a four-game losing streak on the road for the three-time champions and pushing them two points off the playoff places.

The Bulls needed second-half tries by tight forwards Paul Willemse and Callie Visagie to overcome a nine-point halftime deficit in the South African derby, and breathe new life into their campaign after a winless trip to New Zealand and Australia.

The Cheetahs slipped to an eighth loss in 11 games and are bottom after 12 of 19 regular-season rounds despite a lively performance and scintillating first-half tries from backs Johann Sadie and Raymond Rhule.

The scores by lock Willemse and hooker Visagie in a five-minute spell early in the second 40 revived the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld. Young flyhalf Handre Pollard kicked 10 points after forcing his way into the starting lineup in place of Jacques-Louis Potgieter.

The Bulls are only 10th out of 15 in the standings and still way off the dominance that brought the Pretoria-based team consecutive Super Rugby titles in 2009 and 2010, but have a run of home games to finish the regular season.

"A close one," Bulls veteran and stand-in captain Victor Matfield said. "We always knew the Cheetahs would fight to the end. They can score tries. Well done to the boys ... we're still in the hunt."

The Bulls were under fire in the first half after centre Sadie gambled on an intercept, juggled and held on, and went 60 metres down the other end for the opening try in the 18th. The Bulls clawed their way back to 13-9 before Cheetahs wing Rhule powered in for the second try on the stroke of halftime as the visitors carved open the Bulls from a set move off a lineout.

Willemse and Visagie scored similar tries with drives from close range as the Bulls focused on their traditional strength, then defended a late Cheetahs rally.

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Scores:

Bulls 26 (Paul Willemse, Callie Visagie tries; Handre Pollard 2 conversions, 2 penalties, Jurgen Visser penalty, Jacques-Louis Potgieter penalty), Cheetahs 21 (Johann Sadie, Raymond Rhule tries; Elgar Watts conversion, 2 penalties, Johan Goosen penalty). HT: 9-18.

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