Cardiff left Loftus Versfeld empty-handed as Vodacom Bulls flexed their muscle to claim a bonus-point win in the BKT United Rugby Championship.
Dai Young’s side made a bright start in Pretoria but the South African’s power and relentless physicality combined with the 1,350 altitude eventually told.
The Bulls claimed two first half tries thanks to Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse and added four more after the break courtesy of Johan Goosen, Ruan Nortje, Elrigh Louw and a second from Moodie.
Cardiff now turn attention to the European Challenge Cup, which kicks off with a home clash against CA Brive next Saturday (17:30) with tickets available now.
Following an emphatic 35-0 bonus-point victory over Cell C Sharks, the Blue and Blacks travelled to the High Veldt with plenty of confidence but they were forced into making five changes.
Three came in the back line with Rey Lee-Lo flying home for a pre-planned family commitment while Max Llewellyn and Theo Cabango picked up ankle injuries. That saw Mason Grady, Aled Summerhill and Cam Winnett, making just his third appearance, stepping in.
Kristian Dacey also started at hooker and Seb Davies replaced shoulder-injury victim Rory Thornton.
Meanwhile the Bulls, who triumphed ver the Ospreys last week, were bolstered by the return of their Springboks with the likes of Marco Van Staden, Johan Goosen, Canan Moodie, Cornal Hendricks and Kurt-Lee Arendse all returning to blue colours.
Cardiff made the perfect start at Loftus Versfeld as Jarrod Evans slotted an opening penalty inside two minutes.
It was cancelled out by Johan Goosen three minutes later and both teams threatened to threaten in a frenetic opening period. First, after kicking a penalty, for a no arms tackle, to the corner, Cardiff went on the attack.
They had a succession of big forward carries before the ball was spread to the right but a loose pass was snaffled by the Bulls, who broke out. Canan Moodie and Cornal Hendricks threatened to go the length but Thomas Young displayed his remarkable pace to recover and make a try-saving tackle.
Despite those alarm bells, Cardiff edged the opening quarter and spent large periods in Bulls territory with Evans nudging his side back in front on 12 minutes.
Both teams were utilising a kicking game in the hope of winning a territorial battle with the Bulls putting plenty of chase pressure on Winnett. But as the game progressed the Pretoria-based outfit kept much more ball in hand, using their plethora of sizeable ball carriers to hammer at the Blue and Blacks.
Cardiff defended manfully with the back-row virtually everywhere but the pressure told on 30 minutes as they worked a numerical advantage on the left and Springbok star Kurt-Lee Arendse putting Moodie away.
Goosen added the extras to flip the scoreboard and give his side a 10-6 lead, however Evans quickly cut the deficit to a single point after Lloyd Williams was taken out off the ball just after the restart.
The Bulls however, had a sniff of blood and with the help of a couple of penalties they bludgeoned their way to the Cardiff try-line with Arendse eventually skipping over in the right corner. Goosen was on target with the conversion to give his side a 17-6 half-time lead.
Cardiff threatened a breakout try early in the second half as possession was stripped and passed to Williams, who broke down the left. He dummied past one defender but his offload over the top marginally evaded Aled Summerhill, who had an open field ahead.
However, they were quickly punished as Cardiff got caught by the Bulls’ decoy runners and Goosen jinked his way over. He then knocked over the conversion to make it 24-9.
Cardiff had their own opportunities but they could not quite break the Bulls resolute defence and came away from a long period of pressure empty-handed.
They soon returned to Bulls territory and attempted to breakthrough but they were increasingly coming on the wrong side of referee Sam Grove-White, in particular with one collapsed five-metre driving lineout, which the home side appeared to collapse.
It was a major blow for Cardiff and the Bulls soon surged downfield thanks to a succession of penalties eventually leading to second-row Ruan Nortje powering over from close-range.
Goosen converted the bonus-point score and the Bulls now held a commanding 31-9 lead.
Cardiff emptied their bench and battled bravely to halt the Bulls rampage but they could not get out of their half and on 68 minutes Moodie collected a clever chip for his second.
Bulls had the final word, with Elrigh Louw crossing in the final moments to take the hosts beyond the 40-point mark.