With both coaches having overhauled their teams following taxing midweek matches, the superior depth of the defending champions proved decisive. It was a complete performance by the men from Pretoria, who held a one-point lead at the break before going on to blow the hosts away in the second half.
Ultimately, Jake White’s side outscored their neighbours by seven tries to two for a full-house of log points, whilst leaving the Sigma Lions with nothing to show for their efforts and stuck in fifth place for the time being.
A handling error from the kick-off gifted the visitors a perfect platform to attack from. They earned a penalty with a big shove, spearheaded by Simphiwe Matanzima, and Chris Smith popped it over to draw first blood.
Blown up for not rolling away, the Vodacom Bulls surrendered the lead as Jordan Hendrikse slotted back-to-back penalty goals. The Sigma Lions had their tails up and looked threatening, with Wandisile Simelane dancing past a few defenders.
The pressure took its toll as prop-turned-hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels was yellow-carded for killing the ball in the 18th minute, with the home team opting to take the three points and build again.
However, like it did against Tafel Lager Griquas on Wednesday, losing a man lit a fire under the Vodacom Bulls who countered with the first try, excellent phase play leading to Champion of the Match Janko Swanepoel crashing over in the No 5 jersey. Smith’s conversion put the men in blue back in front after 23 minutes.
The Vodacom Bulls had their second near the half-hour mark, WJ Steenkamp taking a quick tap 5m from the try line and driving over with great support from Swanepoel and Ruan Nortje, the latter having come on for an injured Walt Steenkamp. Smith added the extras to make it 17-9.
PJ Steenkamp hit back for the Sigma Lions, the industrious lock dotting down from a metre out, which Hendrikse turned into a seven-pointer. It stayed 17-16 as the teams headed into the half-time break, a fair reflection of a competitive first half in which the visitors made better use of their opportunities.
The Vodacom Bulls were unrelenting out of the gate and after Wessels had been held up, Smith weaved in between Sibusiso Sangweni and Jannie du Plessis for a try in the 46th minute. Sigma Lions captain Burger Odendaal dotted down moments later, however, the try was disallowed by TMO Quinton Immelman due to a forward pass.
From one end of the field to the other, the Vodacom Bulls struck a telling blow as their forwards went from strength to strength. Muller Uys added some sizzle to the steak in the form of an outstanding offload that put Gerhard Steenekamp in for the bonus-point try, with Smith’s conversion pushing the lead out to 29-16.
With Du Plessis, who’d replaced an injured Carlu Sadie early on, limping off in the 56th minute, the match went to uncontested scrums and the Sigma Lions were left having to bring front-rower Sti Sithole back on at the expense of flank Sangweni.
The hits kept on coming for the under-fire hosts as fast hands by Smith sent Johan Goosen in before a nifty grubber by Lionel Mapoe was snapped up by Madosh Tambwe, who touched down.
The Sigma Lions stopped the bleeding with Nathan McBeth coming off the bench and driving over but that plaster was ripped off as Zak Burger scored one last try for the Vodacom Bulls as they completed a Jukskei Derby double, having won the first fixture 40-21 at Loftus Versfeld in the seventh round.
Sigma Lions 21 (16) – Tries: PJ Steenkamp, Nathan McBeth. Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse. Penalty goals: Hendrikse (3).
Vodacom Bulls 48 (17) – Tries: Janko Swanepoel, WJ Steenkamp, Chris Smith, Gerhard Steenekamp, Johan Goosen, Madosh Tambwe, Zak Burger. Conversions: Smith (5). Penalty goal: Smith.