Pedrie Wannenburg of the Bulls, left goes for Ben Mowen of the Waratahs with Derick Kuun of the Bulls on the right during their Rugby Super14 match in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo: AP
The Waratahs produced their most scintillating Super rugby of the season but still lost 48-38 to the defending champion Bulls in Pretoria after surrendering a big early lead.
The Bulls scored six tries to four in an exhilarating spectacle in which NSW scored the first 17 points and led 26-10 late in the first half.
The early season ladder leader scored their third straight bonus point win, while NSW suffered successive losses following their opening round win over Queensland.
The Bulls were rewarded for some bold play, with several of their tries coming after skipper Victor Matfield eschewed opportunities to kick for goal.
The Waratahs, who had scored just two tries in their first two games, picked up one bonus point, but lost another when they conceded a try with under three minutes remaining.
"They really put it to us in that second half," NSW captain and flanker Phil Waugh said.
"It's not just about attack, you've got to defend well and at times the pressure got to us and we let in a couple of easy tries."
Sparked by a strong forward effort and several incisive runs from halfback and man-of-the-match Luke Burgess, NSW stunned the crowd with some superb early multi-phase rugby.
The Waratahs jumped to a 17-0 lead inside ten minutes through tries to hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and flanker Ben Mowen, both converted by inside centre Berrick Barnes, who also added a penalty.
The Bulls hit back with a converted try to winger Francois Hougaard, but Barnes pushed the visitors lead to 20-7 with a 41 metre field goal.
Barnes kicked two more penalties to one for Bulls five-eighth Morne Steyn as the Waratahs built up a 26-10 lead after 28 minutes.
A converted try to centre Stephan Dippenaar got the Bulls to within nine points at halftime, as they heroically ended the period defending 12 phases of Waratah pressure in their own quarter. The visitors hard earned lead lasted just 11 minutes of the second half, as Steyn kicked a penalty and then converted Hougaard's second try after the Waratahs lost their own lineout ball.
Down 27-26, the Waratahs rallied immediately and regained the lead with winger Lachie Turner striding over for a well executed try.
The Bulls were back in front before the hour after winger Gerhard van Den Heever rounded off another sweeping move, with Steyn converting to put the home team 34-31 up.
That advantage swelled to 41-31 after a converted try to impressive centre Wynand Olivier.
The plucky Waratahs slashed the deficit to three with nine minutes left, when Kurtley Beale converted a try to winger Drew Mitchell created by a great run from substitute Rob Horne, but Potgieter crossed to deny them a second bonus point.