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Morne Steyn kicked six penalties and converted an opportunist Chiliboy Ralepelle try to give Northern Bulls a 25-17 win against Western Stormers Friday in an all-South African Super 15 opening round match.
Sacked last year by the Springboks after a steep decline in his goal-kicking success ratio, fly-half Steyn reminded national coach Heyneke Meyer that he is far from finished with a 20-point haul.
New Stormers fly-half Elton Jantjies, one of three young pretenders to the Steyn throne with Patrick Lambie of Coastal Sharks and Johan Goosen of Free State Cheetahs, missed four shots at goal before being substituted.
Replacement pivot Joe Pietersen converted a Jean de Villiers try and kicked a penalty to cut Bulls' lead to 12-10 on 55 minutes before a near-capacity 45,000 crowd at Loftus Versfeld.
But Bulls regained control of a game seemingly slipping from their grasp and Steyn kicked two more penalty goals before adding the extra points to a try by hooker Ralepelle.
A late try from lock Andries Bekker which Pietersen converted brought the visitors within eight points of Bulls, but they failed to score again and missed out on a bonus point for losing by seven points or fewer.
However, neither team will look forward to the Monday video reviews of a match that contained many handling errors and some appalling line-out work during the first half.
"It was a good, clinical team effort and so satisfactory when what you practice on the training ground comes right during the match," said Bulls captain and No 8 Pierre Spies.
Official man of the match Steyn heaped praise on the Bulls' pack: "They were absolutely awesome. It makes such a difference to a fly-half when you are receiving front-foot ball."
Stormers skipper and inside centre Jean de Villiers said: "We cannot blame the missed kicks of Elton for our defeat. This is a team sport and we all let our supporters down."
Referee Jaco Peyper took a long time to confirm the crucial Ralepelle try with 12 minutes left as the television match official watched numerous replays before awarding it.
The issue was whether a grubber kick from scrum-half Francois Hougaard touched replacement Stormers prop Frans Malherbe and played Springbok Ralepelle on side.
Bulls host Australian outfit Western Force next weekend while Stormers have another challenging away assignment against Coastal Sharks, the team they lost to in the 2012 semi-finals.