The Blues slumped to a disappointing 38-22 defeat to the Bulls in Pretoria on Sunday morning.
After looking strong and convincing in their victory over the Crusaders at Eden Park last week, Sir John Kirwan’s lacked their spark and appeared at times pedestrian at the intimidating Loftus Versfeld as they struggled to find any rhythm.
In contrast the bruising South African outfit produced an impressive performance, with first five-eighths Jacques-Louis Potgeiter scoring 21 points to lead his side to victory.
He opened the scoring with a try in the eighth minute and went on to slot three penalties, two conversions and a drop goal as the Bulls controlled the game from start to finish.
Some poor defence gifted the home side three soft tries before replacement prop Marcel Van der Merwe crashed over for a dubious try on fulltime to secure the bonus point as the Blues came away from the encounter empty handed.
First five-eighths Simon Hickey kept his team in the hunt with a flawless evening with the boot, slotting six penalties and a conversion for a personal tally of 17 points.
Trailing by 16 points at half time, the Blues charged back into contention to narrow the deficit to just six points in a strong second half performance, but like their opening match against the Highlanders, the damage had been done in the first half as the Blues failed to overcome the deficit.
Off a tighthead scrum on the Blues’ five metre line, Potgeiter cruised through some lacklustre defence to score after eight minutes, and although Hickey hit back immediately with a penalty goal, the Bulls first-five soon nullified it with a booming 45-metre drop goal.
Hickey slotted two more penalties before the Blues once again made a critical error that led to a try.
James Parsons did a tremendous job at turning over the ball from a ruck, however a flick pass by Tom Donnelly found no one as Bulls number eight Jono Ross pounced on the loose ball to score his side’s second try 28 minutes in.
The home side scored again on the stroke of halftime as Jan Serfontein slid through some poor defence to give the Blues a 25-12 lead at the break.
The Blues charged back into contention in the second half, playing with much more intent and energy to finally crack the Bulls defence.
Coming on midway through the second spell to make his Super Rugby debut, North Harbour midfielder Pita Ahki scored a try from a Simon Hickey grubber, and the first-five slotted a penalty soon afterwards to narrow the gap to just six points heading into the final quarter of the match.
However Potgeiter replied with a penalty of his own to ensure the Blues needed to score twice, before Van der Merwe put the final nail in the coffin with a try on fulltime.
The Blues remain in Johannesburg and will face the Lions at Ellis Park on Sunday morning.