Ruan sails to Suncoast lead

Ruan de Smidt cruised down Durban Country Club’s back nine in 33 strokes on Friday, stamping his name on a three-stroke lead after round two of the Suncoast Classic.

“I’m very happy and hopefully I can do the same again tomorrow, but I don’t want to get too excited yet. I putted really well today and never had big misses, and that’s really crucial here,” he said.

The 23-year-old went bogey-free around a track that has hosted the SA Open 17 times, eventually signing for 69 and securing a three-shot cushion ahead of the final round on Saturday.

His last time in contention was at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final, where he played alongside European Tour sensation Branden Grace during the final round.

“I hit a lot of two-irons today and my low shot is looking good,” said de Smidt. “I looked at Branden when I played with him at the Origins Final and tried to practice that shot, and it’s worked quite well. I learnt a lot from how Branden played, and I’ll approach the final round very differently.”

The Krugersdorp local held the halfway lead at the Zimbabwe Open earlier this year, but slid to third during the final round. He was ready for another crack at success.

“I was nervous during the one in Zim, but I didn’t really feel nervous today. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and hopefully I can pull this one through,” he said.

Since winning the Sunshine Tour’s 2011 Qualifying School, de Smidt has made eight cuts and taken two top-10 finishes. Currently second to Danie van Tonder in the Rookie of the Year Race, de Smidt was keen on a good result.

“A win here would really be good for me, because it will help me get into all of the co-sanctioned events. At the moment I have to pre-qualify for all of them. And the Rookie of the Year Race is a plus if I can get it,” he said.

Wallie Coetsee will head up the chase on Saturday. With 20 years of experience and 38 top-10s to his name, he was ready to hunt down de Smidt’s three-stroke lead.

“It’s been a few years since I’ve been in contention, but I feel confident and I’m relaxed. I spent 20 years on the circuit, last won in ’97 and I’ve come close a few times since then. I’ve got nothing to lose and I’m feeling confident for tomorrow,” he said.

Former champion Alex Haindl carded a massive nine birdies during the second round, securing a share of third alongside Teboho Sefatsa and Jacques Blaauw. Haindl won the inaugural Suncoast Classic in 2006 and was optimistic about Saturday.

“I’ve always loved playing here, and on this course anything can happen,” said Haindl. “There are a lot of birdies, but there’s always plenty of trouble, so I think everyone’s got a chance. This has always been a special event to me, being the one that I won. It’s always nice coming here, it almost feels like home.”

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