Kevin Phelan's one shot lead at the Africa Open evaporated as late starter Matt Ford joined him at the top of the leaderboard in the opening round at East London Golf Club.
The Irishman looked to be continuing the momentum generated from his joint second placed finish at the Joburg Open last week when he surged to the top, but Englishman Ford also countered the blustery conditions and wandering wildlife to match Phelan's five under par 67
Starting on the back nine, Phelan dropped his only shot on his second hole, the par four 477 yard 11th. But the 24 year old responded in emphatic fashion with six birdies, including three consecutively from the fifth, the last of which was completed when he escaped from behind the trees following a disappointing tee shot.
Ford, who was about to spend a winter working for Royal Mail before coming through November's Qualifying School at the tenth attempt, produced the only flawless round of the day which included five birdies.
South Africa has provided all five past winners of this event and Neil Schietekat is leading the home charge following a four under 68, with England's Richard Bland, David Howell and John Parry plus Spain's Eduardo de la Riva also among the chasing pack.