Hopes of a sixth consecutive South African victory at the Africa Open rose on Saturday when Darren Fichardt and Jaco van Zyl shared the third-round lead.
Fichardt fired a seven-under-par 65 and Van Zyl a four-under 68 in windy conditions to finish on 201 with one round to go in the European Tour-Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned event at the par-72, 6066-metre East London Golf Club.
Brazilian Adilson da Silva, who led after the first and second rounds on a course overlooking the Indian Ocean in this eastern town, is two strokes behind on 203 after a 73 that included a triple-bogey seven.
Frenchman Gregory Bourdy (67) is on 204, Argentine Emiliano Grillo (64) on 205 and Spaniard Jorge Campillo (63), Chilean Mark Tullo (68) and South African Tjaart van der Walt (68) on 206.
South Africans Louis Oosthuizen (twice), Charl Schwartzel, Retief Goosen and Shaun Norris have won the Africa Open since its inception with the last three editions part of the European circuit.
Fichardt, a three-time European Tour champion who started the third round six shots adrift of Da Silva, picked up an eagle and seven birdies only to have his round spoilt by two bogeys.
“I will play one hole at a time and one shot at a time tomorrow (Sunday),” insisted Fichardt, who has won the Sao Paulo Open, Qatar Masters and Saint-Omer Open plus 12 Sunshine Tour victories in a 19-year professional career.
“Getting annoyed is my biggest danger – that it what happened on 17 when I thought my tee shot was going into the hole, but it ended five yards short of the green and I had a bogey.”
Fichardt will partner friend and fellow Pretorian Van Zyl in the final round: “I realise Jaco is going for his first European Tour victory, but he is going to have to get through me first.”
Seeking his maiden European Tour triumph after 12 top-10 finishes, Van Zyl picked up five birdies and dropped one shot as he chases first prize in the $1.3m event.
“You take what you can get from this course,” he said, “and while it would be nice to be 25-under-par, I will take 15-under and see what tomorrow brings,” he said.
South Africa-based Da Silva had a nightmare end to his front nine with a triple bogey seven at the par-four eighth followed by a bogey at the following hole after eagling the third.