Richard Sterne (Getty Images)
Richard Sterne continued his excellent form to shoot to the top of the Joburg Open leaderboard on the opening morning.
The 31 year old South African, who finished runner-up to Stephen Gallacher in Dubai last week, began with a hat-trick of birdies at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington.
Another gain at the eighth was followed by an eagle on the long ninth as the five-time European Tour winner turned in 30, with a birdie at the short 13th taking Sterne to seven under par with five holes to play.
While Sterne, the winner of this event in 2008, was chasing a first win since a back injury reduced him to ten appearances in two years, second-placed Peter Uihlein was seeking a first professional win.
The American, who was the game’s top amateur before turning professional and joining the Challenge Tour, eagled the second and had four birdies to reach six under.
Brazilian Adilson Da Silva, England’s Richard Finch and South African Jaco Van Zyl were tied for third on four under, while two-time winner Charl Schwartzel was amongst the later starters.
The former Masters Tournament winner was a heavy pre-tournament favourite on his first outing in 2013 after winning his last two tournaments of 2012 by a combined margin of 23 shots.