Durban: Ernie Els fired a second consecutive round of seven-under-par 65 to take a two-shot lead after the second round of the rain-hit South African Open at the Durban Country Club on Saturday.
South African Els, who began the day trailing overnight leaders Retief Goosen and Alex Cejka by one stroke, moved clear after a bogey-free round.
Els will head into a marathon 36 holes on Sunday at 14-under-par while Goosen, who signed for a second round four-under-par 68 moved to 12-under-par for the tournament.
The South African veterans will be joined in the final third round grouping by 19-year-old French rookie Romain Wattel who followed up his five-under-par in the first round with a six-under par second round 66 for a total of 133.
British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen struck four birdies and an eagle after the turn for a 67 and is a shot further back on 10 under along with fellow South African Charl Schwartzel.
Goosen made a steady start to his round with seven consecutive pars then made his move around the turn with three birdies before closing with a birdie on the short par four 18th.
Wattel, playing in his first European Tour event, enjoyed a solid front nine which saw him fire three birdies and an eagle on the 501-yard par-five eighth hole after he chipped in after his second shot found the fringe of the green.
With the wind once again refusing to blow on the coastal course Els took full advantage of his early tee-time to set himself up perfectly in his quest for a fifth SA Open title.
"I`ve been quite patient this week and played within myself. I would like to do that tomorrow because if you hit one bad shot on this course it can turn into a double-bogey pretty quickly," Els, the three-times winner told reporters.
The 41-year-old, who has had trouble with his putting in recent times, holed three birdies on his front nine before picking up four more shots on the way in.
"I feel like I`m hitting the ball nicely so it gives me a bit of confidence on the tees and my second shots," he said. "For a while I haven`t felt very comfortable with my putting and it bothers you. But I feel more at ease with myself and my game this week."
Only two-and-a-half hours play were possible on the first day of the tournament on Thursday because of torrential rain and players face two rounds on Sunday to complete the tournament.
Goosen said it would be no easy task.
"It`s going to be a long walk. It is quite a hilly course and the first 18 holes should be okay but it will be the survival of the fittest when we go out again," he explained.
The organisers` decision to move the cut line to 50 plus ties instead of 65 plus ties in an attempt to complete two rounds on the final day meant that the mark was set relatively low at three-under.
Two of the biggest casualties were British defending champion Richie Ramsey, who finished on three-over-par, and Spain`s Pablo Martin, the winner of the previous week`s Alfred Dunhill Championship, who finished on two-under.