Jamie McLeary made the turn in 31 to set the very early pace on day one of the Tshwane Open.
The Scot regained his playing privileges last term by claiming the 15th and final card available from The Challenge Tour but had so far only made a single cut at The BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni.
He made birdies on the second and third at Pretoria Country Club, though, and when he eagled the par five ninth, he was four under and a shot clear of local players Theunis Spangenberg and Ulrich van den Berg.
Van den Berg also had an eagle on the ninth as he picked up four shots in five holes from the sixth after bogeying the first, while Spangenberg turned in 31 but then double bogeyed the tenth before picking a shot back up at the 12th.
Another Scot, Andrew McArthur, was then in the group at two under alongside home favourites Merrick Bremner, Justin Harding and Jaco Van Zyl, and Australian Jason Scrivener.
In the morning's marquee group, Charl Schwartzel and Brandon Stone, both with a win already this season, were level par through 11 holes.