The 30-year-old has eight top-10s to his name, but is yet to lift a trophy. He prepared for that to change after he reached the 36-hole mark on 10-under-par, three strokes clear of Ulrich van den Berg and Jared Harvey.
“I’m going for my first win on tour, which is a little bit nerve-wracking,” said Nel. “But that’s what we play the game for and to do it in my home province would put the cherry on top.
“I think tonight it will run through the head, because it’s always tough sleeping on a lead. It is nice to be a few clear, which gives you a bit of leeway.”
The Pietermaritzburg local has been coming into form of late and finished tied for 12th at Vodacom Origins of Golf St. Francis three weeks ago. On Thursday he had a hot day with the flat stick and made eight birdies during the round.
“I had a target in mind for these two days and it came down to putting. I’m very happy to be on 10-under and I’ll definitely take double-digits after two rounds!” he said.
Heading up the chase was Jared Harvey, who shot 64 on Thursday for a seven-under-par total at the 36-hole mark. The Durbanite has come within touching distance of victory on several occasions and he’ll also hunt a maiden title on Friday.
“I took a positive and aggressive mental attitude today, which paid off nicely. I don’t think I’ve missed a fairway in two rounds and that really helps to keep the momentum going,” he said.
Van den Berg came into the week on the back of five consecutive top-five results. The seven-time Sunshine Tour winner was focused on contending yet again.
“My goal is not to win, but to be a successful professional. Winning is a bonus and we all enjoy it, but I aim to have a chance each week and to contend at as many tournaments as possible,” he said.
Ockie Strydom carded 31 on either side of the turn for a Thursday 62 that took him 66 places up the leaderboard and into a share of fourth place.
“Everything came right today,” he said. “My whole game just clicked.”