Jaco van Zyl (Getty Images)
The odds of a fourth successive South African taking the Africa Open title shortened considerably as Darren Fichardt and Jaco Van Zyl took over at the top of the leaderboard on day three in East London.
Fichardt shot a fine 65 to reach 15 under par, and Van Zyl scrambled par at the last two holes to join him with a 68.
Halfway leader Adilson Da Silva slipped to third, two shots back, with a one over par 73; his efforts undermined somewhat by a triple bogey seven at the eighth.
Low scoring initially looked to be the order of the day, as the likes of Emiliano Grillo (64) and Jorge Campillo (63) swept through the field, before the wind got up and prevented the leaders breaking clear.
Brazilian Da Silva resumed with a three shot advantage and when he fired a fantastic second to eight feet at the long third and sunk the eagle putt he was four ahead of Van Zyl.
Fichardt was already off to a flyer by that stage – birdieing four of his first eight and holing a 20 foot putt for eagle at the third.
Van Zyl’s work on the front nine was more sedate, with gains coming at the third, sixth and seventh.
It was at the eighth that the title race blew wide open. Da Silva drove into a bunker, required two attempts to get out, then duffed his fourth from the centre of the fairway into more sand by the green, before two putting for a seven.
That left Fichardt and Van Zyl leading the way, and although the former dropped shots at the ninth and 17th a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th ensured parity was retained on the back nine.
“The wind certainly picked up,” said Fichardt.
“It didn’t feel like it in the fairways which are in little valleys, but it built up and made a difference.”
St Omer Open winner Fichardt is the only one of the top three with a European Tour title under his belt, but was refusing to get carried away ahead of the final round.
“I’ll play one hole at a time, one shot at a time,” he added.
“I know Jaco is going for his first win, but he’s going to have to get through me first.”
Van Zyl has had 12 top-ten finishes without winning on The European Tour, but was pleased with the way he held onto his score as the gusts strengthened late in the day.
“I just wanted to make par and get out of there,” he said. “In the end you take what you can. It would have been nice being 25 under par, but I’ll take 15 and see what tomorrow brings.”
France’s Gregory Bourdy lies fourth after a 67 moved him to 12 under par, with Argentina’s Grillo a shot further back in fifth.