The Bulls enjoyed a wonderful attacking platform from their dominant lineout and scrum, and thrilled their home crowd by running in six tries on their way to a 40-0 lead after an hour.
The Cheetahs saved themselves from further humiliation as they grabbed four well-taken tries in the final quarter.
The visitors held the Bulls for the first 18 minutes and even threatened when they managed to maintain possession through several phases, matching their hosts’ physicality in the collisions.
But the Bulls were able to use their dominance in the set-pieces to wear down the Cheetahs and slick finishing saw them score four tries and earn a bonus point before the break, on their way to a convincing triumph.
Far from playing uninteresting, forward-dominated rugby, the Bulls looked full of ideas and their opening try by eighthman Pierre Spies came after wing Akona Ndungane had counter-attacked off a poor kick.
A scintillating break by scrumhalf Francois Hougaard then set up the second try, by outstanding loosehead prop Dean Greyling, although part of the blame must lie with the Cheetahs lineout, who failed to take their own ball cleanly five metres from their tryline.
The Bulls’ third try, after 28 minutes, was a more bland affair, with fullback Zane Kirchner having a simple run-in after the Cheetahs failed to gather a massive up-and-under from flyhalf Morne Steyn.
Another Cheetahs mistake eight minutes later was ruthlessly punished by the Bulls as eighthman Ashley Johnson spilt the ball behind a retreating scrum and Hougaard pounced for an easy try.
A massacre looked in the offing as the Bulls kept up the pressure in the second half and the Cheetahs were reduced to 14 men as centre Andries Strauss was yellow-carded for pulling the hair of flank Jacques Potgieter while he was in a ruck.
Tighthead prop Werner Kruger was the final recipient of the ball and scored the fifth try after a series of forward drives by Greyling, hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle and replacement lock Wilhelm Steenkamp; and wing Bjorn Basson then scored the try of the match as he sped clear from turnover ball 60 metres out, his deceptive footwork and pace beating the Cheetahs’ cover defence.
“Our defence was good in the first half and we squeezed some turnovers. All our tries in the first half came from turnover ball. Looking at the big picture, I’m definitely satisfied with our performance tonight,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke told a news conference after the game.
“It’s the story of our season so far. We didn’t have any intensity or momentum and the Bulls played off our mistakes. We made too many mistakes in the first half, but we were better in the second half,” Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske said.
But the visitors dominated the final quarter as WP Nel, the replacement tighthead, charged over for two tries, fullback Willie le Roux sprinted over from 55 metres out and flank Heinrich Brussow showed the pace of a wing to score the bonus point try.
The win puts the Bulls in fourth place on the overall standings, eight points behind the first-placed Chiefs, while they are still second in the South African Conference, four points behind the Stormers.
Bulls – Tries: Pierre Spies, Dean Greyling, Zane Kirchner, Francois Hougaard, Werner Kruger, Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Morne Steyn (5).
Cheetahs – Tries: WP Nel (2), Willie le Roux, Heinrich Brussow. Conversions: Sias Ebersohn (2).