East London – South African Jaco van Zyl defied winds that reached 30 kilometres an hour and temporarily halted play to take a two-stroke clubhouse lead Thursday in the first round of the Africa Open.

Seeking his first European Tour victory, 33-year-old Pretoria-born Van Zyl carded halves of 35 and 31 on the tight par-72, 6066-metre course overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Englishman John Parry shot a 68 for second place with his round including seven birdies and three bogeys.

South African Oliver Bekker occupied third place a shot further back after six birdies, one bogey and one double bogey.

A group on 70 included Bjorn Akesson of Sweden, Gregory Bourdy of France, Andy Sullivan of England and South Africans Daniel Greene and Tjaart van der Walt.

Play was suspended for almost three hours when the wind started moving balls on the greens of more exposed holes -- particularly the third -- before conditions improved later on the opening day of the one-million-euro event.

Van Zyl, who has had 12 top-10 European Tour finishes, began his round at the ninth hole and after the interruption, drove the fifth and sixth to claim two-putt birdies and move into the lead.

“I am hitting the ball nicely this week. I was battling a bit with my swing at the Joburg Open last week and it is nice that I carried the short game over,” Van Zyl told reporters.

“It was really tough. A couple of hours before they called us off, and right up until the time they did, it was blowing. When we got to the top of the hill on the fifth I could almost not stand up straight.

“There is talk of rain during the weekend, which will make the course play a little bit longer. Hopefully the wind can die down a little bit -- it is pretty much the only defence this course has.”

European Tour winners who battled included South African Thomas Aiken (74), Englishman Robert Rock (75) and Indian Shiv Chowrasia (78) while the 81 posted by South African Pieter Moolman included a 10 at the par-five third.– AFP