Eugene Laverty made the most of both Cal Crutchlow's bad start to the sixth World Supersport round of 2009 and the opportunity to move to the front of the field on lap two as he claimed a third win of the season at Kyalami.
Kenan Sofuoglu got the better of both Britons off the line in South Africa, leading the opening lap of the WSS encounter before Laverty made his move, but the Irishman's task was made all the easier for Crutchlow having found himself hung out to dry at the start and only sitting sixth as his friend and rival made his break.
As soon as he had clear track ahead of him, Laverty put the hammer down on the Parkalgar Honda, stretching out an immediate gap as the pack behind squabbled over the minor places. Embroiled in the melee, Crutchlow lost valuable seconds as he attempted to work his way back to the front, having claimed a fifth straight pole on Saturday.
By the time he had finally worked his way into second spot, Laverty was already gone, several seconds down the road. Crutchlow followed the Honda man's lead, instantly gapping the pack in his wake, and setting up a game of cat-and-mouse over the remaining 16 laps as he and Laverty traded tenths of a second every time they crossed the start-finish line.
Such was the Britons' pace that, by the end of lap ten, Laverty held a 3.4secs advantage over the Yamaha-mounted Crutchlow, with third-placed Fabien Foret a further six seconds adrift and heading a train that included Sofuoglu, Joan Lascorsz and Andrew Pitt, with another Aussie, Mark Aitchison, trying to bridge the gap from the next group, which was headed by Gianluca Nannelli, Garry McCoy and Michele Pirro, who had Massimo Roccoli, Ant West and Michael Laverty in close attendance, all believing that they could claim tenth place by the end.
Aitchison claimed sixth from a seemingly lacklustre Pitt - who had clashed with Ten Kate team-mate Sofuoglu as early as lap three - but appeared unable to close in on the scrapping Turk and Lascorsz ahead of him. Nannelli also got the better of Pitt, taking seventh on lap 16, but both the Italian and Foret, who had seemingly cemented himself in third place, would fail to see the chequered flag after coming to grief in separate accidents.
Foret's exit promoted the battle between Sofuoglu and Lascorsz to one for the final podium position, albeit now some 14 seconds behind the charging Crutchlow, who remained in pursuit of Laverty despite the laps ticking down.
The British pair had also begun to trade minor errors along with the tenths they had been swapping since lap five, but the championship leader eventually made the one that effectively sealed the result. Having trimmed the gap between them to just over a second, Crutchlow crossed the line more than two adrift, suggesting a mistake in the second half of the lap that undid a lot of his hard work. Although he again pressed on, the Yamaha man could not get close enough to his rival, allowing Laverty to come home 2.5secs clear.
Behind the two pacesetters, the battle for third raged into the closing stages of the final lap but, remarkably, would not go to either Sofuoglu or Lascorsz, who clashed a couple of turns from home and allowed the cagey Aitchison to inherit the spot, his first top three result in WSS. Lascorsz came off best of the two combatants, crossing the line in fourth, just under a second clear of Sofuoglu, while Pitt completed a watching brief in sixth.
Nannelli's slow speed lie-down while running in seventh promoted Triumph team-mate Garry McCoy to the spot, the Australian nevertheless 13secs shy of Pitt. West, Pirro and Matthieu Lagrive were next up, with Laverty denied the chance to join his brother in the top ten by just a second, despite coming home ahead of the likes of Roccoli and Katsuaki Fujiwara, who was making his 99th series start.