Roussel carded nine birdies, including five in a row from the 10th, in an opening seven-under-par 65 at Leopard Creek, which was matched by Poland's Adrian Meronk, with Scotland's Scott Jamieson a shot behind following a 66.

England's Richard Bland, who is seeking a first European Tour title at the age of 47 and in his 468th event, is two shots off the lead after firing six birdies in the space of eight holes in his 67.

It was, however, a difficult day for Australian veteran Scott Hend, who got off to a nightmare start with a double bogey at the first and found himself five-over after just five holes.

RIGHT: Roussel praised the efforts of his caddie, Army Nathi Mdluli. PHOTO: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

The 47-year-old Queenslander at least did recover well enough to finish on two-over par 74 but was lying well off the pace in joint 80th place.

"I started the round pretty well so that put me a little bit in confidence," said Roussel, who was grateful for the expertise of local caddie Army Nathi Mdluli.

"I had a bunch of good birdies and good putts especially. I'm lucky to have Army on the bag, who is a local so he gets to read the greens pretty well.

"And he helped a lot. I had quality putts on the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th. I think without him I wouldn't have been able to put all these in."

Jamieson, whose sole European Tour victory to date came in South Africa in 2012 in an event reduced to 36 holes by bad weather, birdied four of his last five holes after recovering from losing a ball on the par-3 12th.

- Phil Casey, PAA