Abe continued his charge and amazingly took the lead from Kenny Roberts on lap 14, with Rossi following the Japanese rider past the American a lap later, who was immediately put under further pressure from Loris Capirossi.
Abe and Rossi then began to build a slight lead over Roberts and the pursuing field, with Roberts acting as a buffer between the lead duo and the charging Capirossi. The Italian found his way past on lap 16 and set off after his countryman Rossi.
Rossi took the lead from Abe on the next lap (with 11 to go), but fastest man on the track was Loris Capirossi in third and eager to pass Abe himself. On the same lap Garry McCoy threw his Yamaha into the gravel – and retirement, after losing the front end while trying to pass Roberts.
Soon after Capirossi found a way past Abe for second.
The result of this was that the yesterday's thrilling duel for pole was now being repeated on race day for the lead of the Grand Prix, and Capirossi was soon pushing his countryman around every millimetre of the 4.242km circuit.
7 laps to go and the order was: Rossi from Capirossi, Abe, Ukawa, Nakano, Roberts, Criville and Biaggi, as Roberts' slide down the field continued.
Back at the front and Rossi was setting fastest race laps as he tried to shake off Capirossi, but the #65 rider refused to give up and responded with similar lap times of his won, as the pair pulled further away from the rest of the field.
On lap 25 of 28 the gap between the two Italians was just 0.58secs, but Rossi was beginning to edge his factory Honda away from the semi-works machine of Capirossi.
Meanwhile, Ukawa had moved past Abe into third with fellow 500cc Rookie Shinya Nakano also challenging Abe, in what had become a three-way battle for the final podium position between the Japanese riders.
Nakano found his way past Abe on the penultimate lap, as the leaders began their final circuit less than a second apart.
Rossi looked to have just enough advantage over Capirossi, and duly held on to take a clean sweep of pole, fastest lap (on lap 28 of 28) and the race win in South Africa.
Full classification to follow…
1. Rossi 45mins 03.414secs
2. Capirossi +0.660secs
3. Ukawa +7.530secs
4. Nakano +8.693secs
5. Abe +9.224secs
6. Criville +13.211secs
7. Roberts +13.305secs
8. Biaggi +13.663secs