Louis Oosthuizen was making the most of home advantage as he opened up a two shot lead on day one of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.
The 2010 Open Champion withdrew from Wednesday's pro-am due to illness but showed no signs of that in round one, moving to seven under after 12 holes at the seventh Rolex Series event of the 2019 Race to Dubai.
Guido Migliozzi was the clubhouse leader at five under, alongside another South African in Richard Sterne, who had two holes to play.
Home hero and three time winner Ernie Els was then in the group at four under after a bogey free 68.
Els got a rapturous reception as he went off in the first group of the day and he soon had the crowd cheering even more.
A wonderful pitch brought a gain on the par five second and after an excellent par save from the sand on the third, a 20 foot putt on the fifth put him in a share of the lead.
Migliozzi took advantage of the second and then hit an excellent tee shot into the par three fourth to also sit at two under.
The Italian holed a similar putt to Els on the fifth, put an approach to six feet at the sixth and a stunning tee shot to 18 inches at the seventh then made it four birdies in a row
He parred the eighth but hit a wonderful approach after laying up at the ninth and he led by two at the turn.
Els took advantage of the tenth to edge closer to the lead but it was Oosthuizen making the big move.
He put an approach to five feet at the first, made the most of the second, spun an approach in tight at the fifth and holed from 18 feet at the sixth to turn in 32.
Migliozzi could not get up and down from sand on the 12th but bounced back from six feet on the next, before sandwiching another six foot birdie on the 16th with two bogeys.
That left the door open for Oosthuizen, who made the most of the tenth, holed a 15 footer on the next and put his tee shot to four feet on the 12th to lead by two.
Sterne had bogeyed the third but came roaring back with gains on the eighth, ninth, tenth, 12th, 14th and 15th.
Els made a birdie on the 17th to get in clubhouse at four under alongside Thomas Detry, Martin Kaymer, Marcus Kinhult and Sebastian Soderberg, who were all playing their back nines.