Ashleigh Buhai continued her fine form at the Investec South African Women’s Open with a surging 69 to maintain her four-shot lead over Dubai’s Chiara Noja heading into the final day.

On a sunny yet windy day at Steenberg Golf Club, the 2022 AIG Women’s Open champion began the day four ahead of German teen Noja, but that lead was trimmed early on with a bogey on her first hole.

However, the South African bounced back with a birdie on the second before adding three more on the fourth, fifth and 18th holes to reach a total of 18-under-par, as Noja faded to settle for 14-under alongside Spain’s Ana Pelaez Trivino.

“I’m happy with my day,” said Buhai. “I didn’t feel very well today, there’s a gastro-bug going around and unfortunately, I came down with it last night.

“For me to hang in there mentally, I think I did a really good job. The shot on one, I hit it where I wanted to and the wind switched and it fell out of the air. I made the swing and that’s all I can do.

“The wind was very difficult to deal with. I hit quite a few shots, even on nine I thought it was going to be stiff and the next minute it fell out of the sky. The wind was supposed to be down and switched back into.

“The thing you have to do at that moment is you’ve made the swing and done what you’ve wanted to and accept the outcome. That’s what I did well. I got up-and-down to keep myself in it. On the back nine, I hit a lot of solid shots. There was one bad swing on the par-five, but I hit some good putts that didn’t drop today as they have the last few days.”

Buhai is a four-time winner on the LET and has won this title three times previously — the last time being in 2018.

With a four-shot lead heading into the final day, the major champion knows she will still have to play well.

She explained: “The goal was to try and come and win this week. It would be huge, to win your home open is a huge honour. I’ve been able to do it before and to be able to do it again and tick it off would be great.

“Chiara played great today, she came at me hard in the beginning and so did Maggie [Simmermacher], I know I’m going to have to keep my foot on the gas but at the same time play my game and stay patient.”

Pelaez Trivino, who is fourth in the 2023 Race to Costa del Sol, fired the joint-best round of the day with a 66 to move up the leaderboard.

“It was a really good moving day,” said the LET winner. “We started off with a couple of birdies which was nice because it was very windy at the start.”

Dubai school pupil Noja produced a round of 69 with six birdies and three bogeys on her scorecard.

“I think I played a lot better than I scored,” she said. “I’m a little sick and I got a little sloppy and tired. On the back nine, I could really feel it.

“I was just trying to get across 18 and go to sleep and recover for tomorrow and try to keep myself in contention as much as possible. I’m really gutted that putt on 18 didn’t drop because I hit it and thought it was going in.

“It’s a positive I played how I did. I was pretty determined to try and keep in contention today. It’s a shame I couldn’t hold it together as much as I wanted to on the back nine, I tried my best today and I’m going to try and sleep and come out stronger tomorrow.”

Argentina’s Magdalena Simmermacher sits in outright fourth place on 13-under-par after carding a round of 67.

Italy’s Alessandra Fanali and Sweden’s Johanna Gustavsson share fifth place on nine-under-par with South Africa’s Casandra Alexander in ouright seventh on eight-under after she made an ace on the second hole.

Six players are in a tie for eighth place on seven-under including Spain’s Marta Sanz Barrio, who also produced the joint-best round of the day with a 66, English duo Alice Hewson and Eleanor Givens, India’s Vani Kapoor, Scotland’s Michele Thomson and South Africa’s Kaleigh Telfer.