Brilliant finishes from Michael Jonzon and Mark Williams helped them set the clubhouse target on day one of the Joburg Open.
The Zimbabwean birdied three of his last four holes on the West Course to sign for a six under 65 while the veteran Swede repeated the trick on the tougher par 72 East Course to register a 66.
The resurgent Rhys Davies and home favourite Jean Hugo were then a further shot back.
A field of 210, the biggest of the season, had gathered at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club with three places at The Open Championship available to non-exempt players who finish in the top ten.
Jonzon does not currently have his card and was the last man to make it into the tournament but has two European Tour victories at the 1997 Portuguese Masters and the 2009 CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar.
The 43 year old parred his first five holes but eagled the sixth before a birdie on the eighth saw him turn in 34. Another birdie followed on the tenth and, although he dropped a shot on the 12th, he made gains on the 15th, 16th and 18th.
Williams arrived here off the back of a top ten at The BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni last week.
He looked in danger of going seriously low in the early stages of his round as an eagle on the second and birdies on the third, fifth and sixth had him five under through six holes.
A double bogey followed to halt his progress but after a run of seven pars he birdied the 15th, 16th and 18th, the latter after nearly holing his approach for eagle, to move ahead.
Davies won the Trophée Hassan II in 2010 but lost his card at the end of the 2012 season and has spent the majority of the last three campaigns on The Challenge Tour.
Wins at the Turkish Airlines Challenge and Fred Olsen Challenge de España last season helped him finish eighth on that circuit to regain his full European Tour playing privileges and he will be looking to make the best of his second spell after missing the cut at his first two events of the season.
The Welshman, playing the West Course, birdied the second, sixth and seventh but dropped a shot on the eighth before further gains came on the ninth, 12th and 15th.
Hugo was another man to have a fast finish with three birdies in his last four holes on his way to a 67 on the East Course.
The South African has 17 wins on the Sunshine Tour but has yet to win on The European Tour and bogeyed the third before gains on the sixth, eighth and 12th. A trio of birdies from the 15th then vaulted him up the leaderboard.
Andrew Johnston also made an encouraging start on the East Course as a closing birdie, his sixth of the day, got him into the group at four under.
Fellow Englishman Richard Bland was also there after a 67 on the West Course containing six birdies and two bogeys alongside South Africans Jaco Ahlers, Wallie Coetsee and Jared Harvey and Denmark's Joachim B Hansen.
Max Orrin had got to six under in the morning but dropped three shots in his last three holes to drop back.
He got his campaign off to a perfect start on the East Course as he opened with an eagle but he gave a shot back on the fifth before another eagle on the eighth saw him turn in 34.
Birdies followed on tenth and 11th and another gain on the 14th got Orrin to six under but a bogey on the 16th after a missed short putt and a three putt double bogey on the last saw him finish three under.
Daniel Brooks, Justin Harding, Michael Hollick, Daniel Im, Kevin Phelan, Jason Scrivener, Richard Sterne and Chris Swanepoel were also in the clubhouse three shots behind the leaders.
Ross McGowan was one under through 12 with the help of a hole in one on the fifth hole of the East Course with an eight iron from 179 yards.