The George professional heads the field on five under par following a 68 in Thursday’s second round.
But he has a world of experience behind him. Titch Moore, a winner here in 2007, and Jake Roos are both only one shot back, along with another man seeking a maiden victory in JJ Senekal.
Merrick Bremner and another local favourite in Lyle Rowe are only two shots behind, while Jean Hugo, winner of a record eight Vodacom Origins titles, is three adrift of the lead.
But Nortje, who admits he was low on confidence through the first six months of the year, is only too happy to be seeing the results of his hard work.
“It was a great day out there,” he said of his 68. “I didn’t miss a fairway and I think I hit 16 greens. My ball striking was very good. I kind of fell asleep on the last few holes, but I’ll take it.”
Nortje travels with Heinrich Bruiners, who broke through with his maiden victory on this series this year, and admits it has helped him to turn the corner in his own game.
“I was kind of down after the first six months of the year and Heinrich kept telling me that I was working on the right things and I’d get there. It’s great to see the hard work starting to pay off.”
But Moore will present one of the most significant obstacles to Nortje’s title hopes. The Port Elizabeth professional rates St Francis Links as his favourite course in South Africa. And he prepared for this tournament by playing 90 holes in two days here last week.