Trevor Fisher Jr. jumped into a share of the lead with a second-round, 9-under 62 on Friday at the Joburg Open.
Fisher played the par-71 West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Friday after carding a 66 at the more challenging, par-72 East Course in the opening round. The South African is now tied with compatriot and overnight co-leader Richard Sterne, who turned in a 65 on the East Course Friday, at 15-under 128.
Sterne finds himself with the 36-hole advantage for the second straight week after jumping out to a 1-stoke lead at the Dubai Desert Classic. He eventually finished runner-up to Stephen Gallacher in that event.
"I did the right things and putted well," he said. "It's nice to not be behind going into the weekend."
George Coetzee sits alone in third place at 12-under after shooting 64 on the East Course.
Charl Schwartzel finds himself tied for fourth place after 36 holes of his season debut. The 2011 Masters champion, who carded a 65 on Friday, is knotted with Keith Horne (66) and Felipe Aguilar (66).
"I've had five and a half weeks (of) nothing, then I started practicing a bit," said Schwartzel, a two-time winner of this event. "I took notes of what I was thinking of when I stopped to keep the same thought processes. My ball striking is good enough; I'm not putting as well -- those short ones are the ones you have to make to win tournaments."
Overnight co-leader Maximilian Kieffer shot even par at the East Course on Friday and dropped into a tie for 10th place at 8-under. The Challenge Tour graduate has enjoyed a favorable start to his rookie campaign with a tie for fourth at the season-opening Nelson Mandela Championship and a tie for 17th in Dubai last week.
Defending champion Branden Grace missed the cut after turning in rounds of 72 and 70.
Fisher came within one stroke of tying Schwartzel's West Course record on Friday. The Sunshine Tour regular, who tied for third at this event last year, opened with a par before kickstarting his round with an eagle at the long, par-5 second.
A run of five straight pars followed before Fisher closed with six birdies in his final 10 holes. That stretch was highlighted by a trio of successive birdies starting at No. 15, where the South African rolled home a five footer.
He dropped his tee shot on the par-3 16th within six feet and nailed the putt for another birdie before sending his approach from the rough within two feet on the next and tapping in to reach 15-under.
A par on the last had Fisher five strokes ahead of Schwartzel and Sterne, who had completed two holes.
"It was a great day out there," said Fisher. "Everything just happened for me and I sank the putts I needed to sink. I was happy and patient with myself -- walked slow and did everything slow -- and it was just a good day."
Sterne, a five-time European Tour winner and titlist here in 2008, carded birdies on the first, fourth and seventh before rolling home an eight-foot putt on No. 9 for another birdie and an outward 33.
Still three behind Fisher, Sterne turned it on late with a short birdie putt on No. 15, and a pair of birdies on his final two holes to reclaim a share of the lead.
"It won't be easy on the weekend," continued Sterne. "The players that are five or six back can catch us as well. Charl's there, George is due a win, so it's a long way from over."
After splitting courses over the first two days, the remaining field will move to the tougher East Course for the weekend rounds.
NOTES: Schwartzel finished 2012 with back-to-back wins, which came by a combined 23 shots ... This tournament is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Sunshine Tour of South Africa ... Last year, Grace took a 3-shot lead into the final round and fired an even-par 72 to hold off Jamie Elson by one stroke. Grace went on to win three more times in 2012 for a European Tour-high four victories on the season.