The Bulls made a winning start to their Super Rugby Unlocked campaign as they recorded a 30-23 victory over the Griquas at Loftus Versfeld.

The match started at a high tempo as the Bulls kicked off proceedings after winning the toss, Morné Steyn punting it deep into the Griquas 22.

The opening spell of play also produced a number of handling errors from both teams, with the Griquas earning a turnover and a penalty in the fifth minute after a Bulls drive broke down.

The Griquas would go on to draw first blood just four minutes later, skipper George Whitehead calmly converting from in front of goal following an infringement by Aplon after a tackle.

The Bulls redoubled their efforts after falling behind, kicking for touch after earning a penalty as they went in search of a try to claim the lead. However, it was a repeat of the earlier passage of play as the Griquas earned a penalty just five metres out.

They had a great chance to draw level with the Griquas on 17 minutes after earning a penalty at the breakdown, but Steyn was unable to find the target as his kick from some way out drifted wide.

And the Bulls were made to rue that miss as, on 25 minutes, the Griquas added five more to their tally, Stefan Willemse darting into a gap before offloading to Verity-Amm for a straightforward try.

Whitehead stepped up to take the conversion and made no mistake, giving the Griquas a ten-point lead with almost 30 minutes on the clock.

The Bulls again opted to go for touch a few minutes later after earning a penalty, but once again coughed up possession to the Griquas at the vital moment in play.

They eventually decided to kick for poles after the Griquas were penalised at a scrum, Steyn converting the spot-kick to reduce the deficit in the closing stages of the first stanza.

And the Bulls managed to build on that late momentum as they managed to draw level on the stroke of half-time, Jason Jenkins finding an opening in the Griquas defence before passing to Ruan Nortje for an easy try.

However, the Bulls were dealt a big blow at the start of the second half as Tim Agaba earned a yellow for a professional foul, with the referee ruling he had collapsed a Griquas maul.

And, with the Bulls down to 14 men, the Griquas took full advantage, Anthony Volmink intercepting Steyn's attempted cross-kick before running clear down the left flank for a try.

Whitehead failed to add the extras, though, with the scoreline locked at 10-15 with much of the half still to play.

The flyhalf would go on to make amends for that miss a few minutes later, however, as he converted a penalty after the Bulls had joined the breakdown from the side.

But just two minutes later, following a TMO, Whitehead was shown the yellow card after failing to roll away from a ruck and preventing the Bulls from scoring.

The Griquas continued to frustrate the Bulls just metres out from their own tryline and the referee finally had enough after a few resets of the scrum, awarding a penalty try.

The Bulls continued to apply the pressure and it paid dividends as they were awarded another penalty at the breakdown, Steyn holding his nerve at the conversion to put his side in front, 20-18.

After a brief lull in play, the Bulls would go on to add another try, Arno Botha getting it over the line following a quick feed from substitute Elrigh Louw.

Steyn made no mistake from the conversion but the Griquas were quick to post a reponse, Ashon Davids pouncing on a loose ball after the restart before punting it upfield, where Verity-Amm managed to chase the ball down before taking it home.

Whitehead's conversion failed to hit the mark, though, as the tempo again picked up in the closing stages of the match.

It was end-to-end stuff as the Bulls were awarded a penalty on 73 minutes, with Steyn converting to restore his side's seven-point advantage.

With time running out, Griquas launched an attack from inside their own 22 but the move unravelled after a handling error just inside the Bulls half.

And that proved to be their last chance to score as the Bulls were awarded a scrum on the 80-minute mark, opting to tap and kick for touch as the referee drew a close to proceedings.

Bulls - Tries: Nortje, Botha. Cons: Steyn (2). Pens: Steyn (2). Yellow Card: Agaba

Griquas - Tries: Verity-Amm (2), Volmink. Cons: Whitehead. Pens: Whitehead (2). Yellow Card: Whitehead

Bulls: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 David Kriel, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Arno Botha (captain), 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.

Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.

Griquas: 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 André Swarts, 11 James Verity-Amm, 10 George Whitehead (captain), 9 Zak Burger, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Carl Els, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Mox Mxoli

Replacements: Alandre van Rooyen, Bandisa Ndlovu, Madot Mabokela, Adre Smith, Zandre Jordaan, Gideon van der Merwe, Ashon Davids, Berton Klaasen, Mzwanele Zito, Johan Momsen, Bjorn Basson

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron and Morné Ferreira
TMO: Cwengile Jadezweni