Rory McIlroy held the clubhouse lead midway through the afternoon session at the South African Open after a five-under-par 67 moved him to within two shots of overnight leader Michael Lorenzo-Vera.
The Frenchman was on a tournament total 13-under-par through his first nine holes after an erratic opening saw him begin with a birdie on the second hole, before a double bogey on the par-five third was followed up with an eagle two holes later.
Lee Westwood leads the chasing pack after picking up two birdies through his front nine at the Pearl Valley Golf Estates to move to 12 under overall, while McIlroy shared third spot with his fellow countryman Gareth Maybin and South African George Coetzee, the pair through 11 and 15 holes respectively.
Bernd Wiesberger from Austria was a further stroke back after carding the round of the day, a seven-under-par 65 that included six birdies, one eagle and a bogey, with round one leader Fabrizio Zanotti, Ross McGowan, Dave Horsey, Thomas Aiken and Damien McGrane all on the same score.
Another Irish player to make a big impact on day three was Darren Clarke.
The Ulsterman, who had a disappointing opening round 74, fought back yesterday with a 67 and matched the score again in round three with a round that included seven birdies and two bogeys as he moved to eight-under overall.
He said: “Obviously my last two rounds were a bit better than the first round. I’ve just played nicely the last couple of days and I just need to have another really good low one tomorrow to finish with the year. To be honest, I’d much prefer if the wind was blowing, but I’ll take that score.”
Reflecting on the difference between his first day and the next two, he added: “I don’t know. I just played similar, just managed to hole a few putts in the last two rounds and I’ve just played nicer.
There were just a few mistakes there on the first day. That was all.”
Four-time winner Ernie Els, who was second overnight, made a torrid start to his third round slipping to four-over par through 11 holes, including two triple bogeys on the first and 11th holes.
But it was 19-year-old McIlroy that made his move on the third afternoon, carding a faultless round that included five birdies, four of which came on the last five holes.
He said: “Yeah, it was a slow start pretty much with a strong finish. I have to be pleased with the finish when you consider that those closing holes are very tough.
“So I am really pleased and it gives me a good shot going into tomorrow.”
World number eight Henrik Stenson recovered from his poor start earlier in the day to post a 69, his best score of the week, for a tournament total 210.