The Highlanders prop Chris King says a rise in tempo after the halftime break propelled the men from the deep south to their upset 35-28 win over the Bulls in Pretoria and to the top of the Super Rugby standings.
Jamie Joseph's men are first equal with the Sharks after their third straight win, their impressive early season form taking them well out on top of the New Zealand conference.
Beating the Bulls in Pretoria is one of the toughest tasks in Super Rugby and the manner of which the Southerners recorded the bonus point win suggests this team may finally have the credentials to reach the playoffs.
King says the Highlanders knew they were in with a chance of claiming a rare win at Loftus Versfeld after lifting their intensity early in the second half.
In other matches the Stormers beat the Cheetahs 21-15 while the Chiefs thumped newcomers the Melbourne Rebels 38-10, the Reds beat the Brumbies 31-25 and the Sharks outgunned a 14-man Western Force 39-12.