Richard Sterne’s hopes of securing a first European Tour title in more than four years were boosted as he gained sole possession of the Joburg Open lead in a topsy turvy third round.
Tied with fellow South African Trevor Fisher Junior at the summit overnight, Sterne matched his partner’s opening birdie and then improved to 17 under with a birdie at the par five sixth, where he almost pitched in for eagle.
Fisher Junior responded superbly, birdieing three straight holes from the seventh, which was also birdied by Sterne.
However, the former then lost ground with consecutive bogeys, and Sterne curled in a lengthy birdie putt at 11 to move two clear at 19 under.
The in-form Charl Schwartzel, a two time winner of this event who began the day at 10 under, moved ominously into third courtesy of a third birdie of the day at 12, although he remained six off the pace.
Garth Mulroy, comfortably the pick of the morning starters at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC, was one of several players a shot further back.
A 65 featuring four birdies on each nine was enough to lift the 33 year old, runner-up here in 2011, above many of his rivals.