Pretoria (AFP) - World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden Barrett became only the fourth player to score 1,000 Super Rugby points, but could not prevent Wellington Hurricanes losing to resurgent Northern Bulls Saturday.
Pierre Schoeman transformed from yellow-card villain to try-scoring hero as Bulls triumphed 21-19 in Pretoria in their first match under former All Blacks coach John Mitchell.
Earlier, a penalty try ensured the Canterbury Crusaders launched the defence of the crown with a win over the Waikato Chiefs while the NSW Waratahs snatched victory in the final minute.
The Crusaders beat the Chiefs 45-23 in Christchurch, but it was harder work for the Waratahs, who needed a last-ditch try by Ned Hanigan to clinch a 34-27 win over Western Stormers in Sydney.
Golden Lions, runners-up in the past two seasons, trailed by 10 points before taking control against the Jaguares and winning 47-27 in Johannesburg.
ACT Brumbies had to come from behind for their 32-25 victory over the Sunwolves in Tokyo.
In Pretoria, Barrett, who has been recovering from injury, came off the bench to score a try, reach 1,003 points and join Dan Carter, Morne Steyn and Stirling Mortlock in an exclusive club.
But three-time champions Bulls, who won only four of 15 matches last season, fought back to win through the strength of Schoeman eight minutes from time.
Bulls were first to score through wing Johnny Kotze and led 16-12 at half-time before falling three points behind just before the hour when Barrett scored and Ihaia West converted.
"I am very proud and happy," said Bulls skipper Burger Odendaal. "We stuck to our structures and did not try anything fancy."
Hurricanes captain Brad Shields said: "This is not the way you want to start a season. We failed to capitalise on some mistakes by the Bulls."
- Risks backfire -
The Crusaders' scoreline blew out after they were awarded a penalty try when desperately clinging to a 26-23 lead inside the last nine minutes.
It put the defending champions 10 points ahead, forcing the Chiefs to take risks which backfired as they gave away two intercept tries.
There were nine tries in the helter-skelter but error-strewn encounter -- seven of them to the Crusaders.
The champions were also hit with two yellow cards, leaving captain Sam Whitelock unimpressed with their overall effort.
"It's very, very tough when you're down to 14 men for periods. We gave away too many penalties," he said.
The Waratahs lost the lead five times against the Stormers, but clinched victory following a lineout steal after the final siren.
A strong run from reserve back-rower Jed Holloway and passes from fly-half Bernard Foley and replacement prop and debutant Harry Johnson-Holmes set up Hanigan, who crashed through two defenders to score in the corner.
The Waratahs scored four tries to three and were down to 14 men for 10 minutes of the second half, when lock Rob Simmons was sin-binned for a lineout infringement on his 'Tahs debut.
The young Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse limped off just after half-time in a major injury concern.
Lions' giant wing Aphiwe Dyantyi celebrated his second Super Rugby appearance with two superb tries against the Jaguares that had the pundits excited.
"He had an outstanding game and is a fantastic talent," said hard-to-please SuperSport analyst and former Springboks coach Nick Mallett.
Ill discipline once again cost the Argentines dearly with wing Bautista Delguy and replacement hooker Julian Montoya yellow-carded.
The Sunwolves, now under Japan's national coach and former Highlanders mentor Jamie Joseph, looked a vastly improved unit to that which produced just three wins in the previous two seasons.
In the second half, Brumbies showed glimpses of the form required if they are to again dominate the Australian conference.