Faithlegg's Robin Dawson shot a second successive 65 to take a one-stroke lead in the final round of the South African Amateur Open Stroke Play Championship at Kingswood Golf Estate.
The flame-haired Maynooth University star birdied three of his last five holes in a six-birdie round to edge clear of Edgar Catherine of France on 12 under par and set up the possibility of a second successive Irish win in the event following Jack Hume's victory last year.
Whitehead's John Ross Galbraith shot a level par 70 to lurk just five shots off the pace in a four-way tie for third on seven under with Alex Gleeson also shooting 70 to share 12th on two under.
"I am happy enough the way the first three days have gone," Dawson said when asked about the possibility of another Irish win. "We will see what happens, go with the flow and see how we get on,"
"It is great to get the year kick-started in really good weather and playing a really good golf course.
"The courses down here give you a chance to shoot good scores. It is a good start to the year we are just practising, and it is cold. It is a great opportunity we have been given so we are all very fortunate for that.
"There are some great players here, and it's good to see the best South African players here and to compete against them."
Dawson and Galbraith started the day just one stroke behind leader Oliver Gillberg of Sweden, who shot a one over 71 to slip back to third.
Galbraith opened with two bogeys, then eagled the par-five third and birdied the fourth before following 13 straight pars with a bogey four at the last for his 70.
Dawson started well and birdied the third, fourth and eighth to move into a share of the lead before following his only bogey of the day at the 13th with three birdies in a row.
"I made an aggressive play off eight," he said. "It was downwind, and I decided to hit driver there to the front of the green and hit a lovely chip to about a foot. That was given birdie there.
"I lost concentration on my second shot to the 13th and came up short, chipped to 10 feet and missed. But after that, I recovered well with three birdies on the trot after that."
After firing wedge to four feet at the 14th, he birdied the 15th and then got up and down from just short of the reachable, par-five 16th before closing with two pars.
"It was nice steady birdies and nice steady play today," Dawson added. "It was a little bit windy, but I am well used to that coming from Ireland.
"It was a little bit hot today for me but yesterday was nice, even though it was raining. I have never played in shorts in the rain before."
Gleeson made three bogeys in his first ten holes but birdied the 12th, 13th and 16th for his 70.
Knock's Colin Fairweather is joint 28th on one-over after a fine 68 with Stuart Grehan a shot further back after he bogeyed his last two holes for a 71.
Kevin LeBlanc (74) and Colm Campbell (71) share 43rd on four over par.
Brandon Cloete took some consolation out of a frustrating day with the putter.
“I didn’t gain any ground on Robin, but at least I didn’t fall away,” said 25-year-old from Pezula, who had two birdies and a pair of bogeys on his card.
“I really had to fight out there. I took a conservative approach, but I had to make some critical par-saves to keep the round going. The ball striking has been really consistent over all three days, but the putts just didn’t fall. I’ll have to get the putter hot and go really deep to catch Robin on Friday.”
Venter stumbled out of the blocks with a double bogey but didn’t let the early mistake dictate his round.
“I hit it left of the green at the first and the ball was down in the thick stuff,” said the KeNako Academy player. “The ball didn’t come out as I hoped for and I left the chip short and on the wrong side of the green.
“I got myself back on track with back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth and just kept it going from there. I definitely left a few putts out there, but not for the lack of trying. The downhill, left to right putts are very tricky, because you can’t chase them. But I also made some really good par saves which is encouraging. It’s not going to be easy to make up five shots on Robin, but we will have to step it up. You never know what can happen in front.”
Meanwhile, GolfRSA National Squad juniors Christo Lamprecht, Luca Filippi and Martin Vorster don’t seem to have any trouble holding their own against the 33-strong international contingent who made the cut.
Southern Cape’s Lamprecht fired a 65 to join former SA Stroke Play champion Jason Smith, reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion Craig Ross from Scotland and Alex Gleeson from Ireland in 12th on two-under-par 208.
Western Province’s Filippi and reigning Nomads SA Boys U-15 champion Martin Vorster from Southern Cape tied for 16th and 18th respectively after posting a pair of 69s.
Third Round Scores (top 20)
All competitors RSA unless otherwise indicated (Par 70)
198 Robin Dawson IRL 68 65 65
199 Edgar Catherine FRA 66 68 65
203 Andre Nel 67 69 67; Brandon Cloete 67 66 70; John Ross Galbraith IRL 67 66 70; Oliver Gillberg SWE 67 65 71
204 Dan Brown GBR 70 67 67
205 Liam Johnston SCO 66 72 67
206 Marcus Svensson SWE 69 70 67
207 Pierre Pineau FRA 69 67 71; Frédéric LaCroix FRA 68 68 71
208 Jason Smith 71 71 66; Christo Lamprecht 70 73 65; Craig Ross SCO 69 66 73; Alex Gleeson IRL 67 71 70
209 Luca Filippi 69 71 69; Jeremy Freiburghaus SUI 68 73 68
210 Malcolm Mitchell 73 68 69; Marco Steyn 72 70 68; Johan Coetzer 72 68 70; Quintin Wilsnach 71 71 68; Marin Maeti FRA 69 74 67; Luke Jerling 69 71 70; Gregory Mckay 69 70 71; Martin Vorster 68 73 69; Matt Saulez 68 73 69; Victor Veyret FRA 67 72 71
211 Colin Fairweather IRL 73 70 68
212 Stuart Grehan IRL 71 70 71
214 Kevin Le Blanc IRL 70 70 74; Colm Campbell IRL 73 70 71.